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Heaf test gun, Oxford, England, 1978

The Heaf Test shows if people have antibodies against tuberculosis. If they have not they may need a vaccination. Tuberculin liquid was placed on the skin, left to form a film and then six needles were plunged into the skin to a depth of 2 mm. If a red hard area appeared after three days, the test showed they had tuberculosis, were naturally immune or had acquired immunity in some way. If a person had no reaction, they were at risk of contracting the disease and vaccination was recommended. The gun would have been sterilised before being used on another patient. The Heaf Test is named after the man who devised it in 1949, Frederick R G Heaf (1894-1973), who was an English physician. It was replaced in Britain by the Mantoux test.

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Glossary: immunity

The condition of being immune, the protection against infectious disease conferred either by the immune response generated by immunisation or previous infection or by other nonimmunologic factors.

Glossary: Heaf test gun

used to carry out Heaf tests

Glossary: tuberculin

A protein extracted from the tuberculosis causing bacterium. It is used in tests to determine if a person has been exposed to the bacteria and is in danger of coming down with the disease.

Glossary: tuberculosis

An infectious disease that is caused by a bacterium first identified by Robert Koch in 1882. The disease usually affects the lungs first, and is accompanied by a chronic cough.

Glossary: antibody

Molecules produced by the body which attach themselves to the micro-organisms that cause disease and destroy them.

Glossary: Heaf Test

A skin test carried out before vaccination to determine whether or not an individual is immune to tuberculosis.