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Diphtheria is a potentially deadly contagious infection which especially affects children. In 1883, German bacteriologist Edwin Klebs (1834–1913) discovered the bacterium which causes diphtheria. This was then isolated the following year by fellow researcher Friedrich Loeffler (1852–1915), which meant that the presence of bacteria could be tested for and used to diagnose infection. This throat swab was supplied by Kent County Council who would have supplied them to clinics and doctors’ surgeries to help monitor and check the spread of the disease. Diphtheria has been a notifiable disease since 1889, which means all cases must be reported for government statistics. Fortunately, diphtheria is now rare in the United Kingdom because of routine childhood vaccination.

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Glossary: throat swab

a wad of absorbent material usually wound around one end of a small stick and used for applying medication or for removing material from an area

Glossary: diphtheria

An acute highly contagious infection, generally affecting the throat but occasionally other mucous membranes and the skin. Diphtheria has been largely eradicated due to world-wide vaccination efforts.