Tetanus - Diagnosis






The symptoms of tetanus are quite distinctive and a doctor can usually diagnose the disease simply by observing the patient. Knowing whether or not the patient has had a tetanus vaccination also helps a doctor make their diagnosis.

The vaccine against tetanus was discovered by the German bacteriologist Emil Adolf von Behring (1854–1917) in 1890. Behring was working at the time in the laboratory of the great bacteriologist Robert Koch. One of Behring's colleagues in Koch's laboratory was the Japanese bacteriologist Shibasaburo Kitasato.

Behring and Shibasaburo were especially interested in two terrible diseases, diphtheria and tetanus. Behring had an idea that a vaccine against both diseases might be possible by producing an "antitoxin" against them. He made the antitoxin in the following way:

First, he injected the bacteria that cause tetanus into an experimental animal, such as a rabbit. Then, he removed blood from the infected animal. Next, he injected that blood into a second animal, such as a horse. Finally, he removed blood from the second animal. From this blood, he made a vaccine to be used with humans.

Behring's idea was later developed more fully by his colleague Paul Ehrlich. The vaccine developed by Behring and Ehrlich later became part of the DPT (diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis) vaccine that nearly all young children receive today. For his invention of the vaccine, Behring was awarded the first Nobel Prize in medicine in physiology in 1901.

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