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Box containing one vial of Scarlet Fever Streptococcus Toxin, United States, 1934

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Scarlet fever is a potentially deadly contagious infection which particularly affects children. It is caused by a bacterium called Streptococcus pyogenes. This has many strains causing a range of illnesses and diseases. These include tonsillitis, scarlet fever, gonorrhoea and meningitis. This tiny glass vial contains enough Streptococcus toxin to test ten individuals for their susceptibility to the disease. The test is known as a Dick test after its American inventors, bacteriologists George and Gladys Dick. It involved injecting a tiny amount of toxin just under the skin of one arm and a neutral toxin in the other arm as a comparison. If the body does not have enough antibodies to fight the Streptococcus toxin it reacts by producing a raised red mark. The patient was considered at risk and given an immunisation injection if this mark appeared. This Streptococcus toxin was manufactured by American firm Parke Davis and Company.

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Glossary: scarlet fever

An acute contagious disease caused by streptococcus bacteria occurring predominantly among children and characterized by a scarlet skin eruption and high fever.

Glossary: immunisation

A process that improves a organism's ability to resist or overcome infection.

Glossary: scarlet fever test

trial term S&H