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Tube of tuberculin jelly, London, England, 1955

This jelly may have been used to conduct a test to see whether a person has been exposed to bacteria-causing tuberculosis. This test, called the ‘Fluorpa-per test’, was introduced in 1936. A 20 mm high “V” was applied in jelly on the left hand side of the spine. Once the skin was sanded with a very fine sand paper, the jelly was applied in the same way to the right side. Zinc oxide was placed over the jelly and removed after three days. The skin was then examined. If the person had been exposed, there would be a slight red mark. However, the results of the test were hard to interpret and even experts disagreed on diagnoses.

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    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: tube

    A cylindrical or oval profiled container used to contain a product with a semi-liquid, jelly, cream or paste-like consistency. Used for food, pharmaceutical, cosmetic or chemical products, for example, ointment, toothpaste, make-up or paint. Usually made of plastic or aluminium, threaded at one end and sealed with a cap and completely sealed at the other. The tube can be hermetically sealed and the contents for pharmaceutical or other preparations are near germ-free due to the high temperatures used during production.

    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.