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Four ampoules of anti gas gangrene serum, Paris, France, 1934

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Gas gangrene is an infection caused by bacteria in soil finding its way into wounds that have not been cleaned properly. As the flesh and tissue decay a foul smelling gas is given off. This ampoule of serum contains antibodies from an animal infected with the disease. Injected into a patient, this serum was used to prevent or cure the infection. Treatment today is usually by antibiotics, and surgery to remove the dead and infected tissue to prevent further spread of the bacteria. The infection was an especially feared complication of wounds in the First World War. Gangrene was often fatal before the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s.

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    Glossary: immune serum

    Immune serum, blood serum from an immunised animal used for passive immunisation, an antiserum, antitoxin or antivenin.

    Glossary: vaccination

    The introduction of vaccine into the body for the purpose of inducing immunity. Coined originally to apply to the injection of smallpox vaccine, the term has come to mean any immunising procedure in which vaccine is injected.

    Glossary: ampoule

    A sealed glass or plastic capsule containing one dose of a drug in the form of a sterile solution for injection.

    Glossary: antibody

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

    Glossary: antibiotic

    A substance that is used to treat infections.

    Glossary: gas gangrene

    Death and decay of wound tissue infected by a soil-based bacteria. Toxins produced by the bacterium cause decay of connective tissue and the generation of gas.

    Glossary: immune

    To be protected against infectious disease.