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Trial packaging for Calmette's tuberculin test, London, England, 1910-1914

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Tuberculin was used to see whether a person had been exposed to bacteria causing tuberculosis. This rather painful test placed tuberculin fluid into the corner of the eye. The eye was checked after eight, twelve, 24, and 48 hours. If the person had been exposed to the bacteria, the conjunctiva (the outer coating of the eye) would become red and swollen, causing discomfort. A reaction showed they had the disease, were naturally immune or had acquired immunity in some way. However, it was an unreliable test as the red and swollen appearance of the eye could be caused by another infection and so it was eventually abandoned. This test was invented by Leon Charles Calmette (1863-1933), a French physician and bacteriologist. He would go on to create the BCG. It is shown here with von Pirquet's tuberculin test (1981-1681/1).

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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: tuberculin test

    No description.

    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: vaccine

    A substance given to humans or animals to improve immunity from disease. A vaccine can sometimes contain a small amount of bacteria that is designed to stimulate the body's reaction to that particular disease. The first vaccine was developed in 1796 by Edward Jenner to prevent smallpox.

    Glossary: BCG

    Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) is a weakened strain of the tuberculosis bacteria, which is used as a vaccination against TB(. Developed in 1908, it was first used on humans in 1921.