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The Antitoxic Serum Treatment of Diphtheria.1

    Naturevolume 51pages402406 (1895) | Download Citation



    THE subject with which we shall deal to-night, though at first sight of interest to the physician only, has been so fully discussed in the public prints, and has been so bitterly and irrationally opposed on the one hand (perhaps also unreasonably beplauded on the other), that those who take even a general interest in the public health, or who are wishful to obtain some insight into the practical and scientific aspects of a new system of treatment, may well be interested to know something of what is being so freely discussed in the columns of our daily newspapers. Beyond this, however, many take a more personal interest in a method of treatment which holds out promise of help in the cure or amelioration of the symptoms and conditions met with in diphtheria, a disease which, very justly, is looked upon as one of the most dangerous with which the physician has to deal. To begin with, I should like to make a frank confession. With that conservatism which is met with even in the most radical of natures, many, of whom I was one, felt disposed to treat antitoxic serum as belonging to the same group of substances as tuberculin, around which was constructed a theory of which the laboratory experimental basis, though apparently fair and firm, was as yet insufficient for the support of the structure of therapeutic treatment that was afterwards raised upon it. I followed the earlier experiments on this new method with great attention; I carefully analysed the principles on which the method was founded, and then with some misgivings watched the gradual development of the treatment as applied to actual cases of diphtheria. I was inclined to receive the statistics with great reserve, as I felt that this new method, like all new methods of treatment, might be making cures in the minds of the observer, and not on the bodies of the patients. Now, however, I am convinced that whatever justification my incredulity may have had from the consideration of previous experiments, none could be claimed in connection with the experiments that were carried out in the investigation of this special subject, and I am thoroughly satisfied that, although the antitoxic serum treatment may not come up to the expectations of all the rash writers on the subject—for many people seem to think that it should be a specific against diphtheria in all its stages—it promises, and this promise has in part been redeemed, to diminish the diphtheria case mortality in a very remarkable manner.

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