Shibasaburo Kitasato (1852-1931) and Emil von Behring (1854-1917) immunized guinea pigs with heat-treated diphtheria toxin.
Kitasato and von Behring showed that the blood products (sera, or, singular, serum) of the guinea pigs contained a substance that prevented the harmful effects of C. diphtheriae and its toxin when the guinea pigs were re-exposed to lethal doses of the bacteria and toxin. Next, they showed that they could cure diphtheria in an animal by injecting it with the serum of an immunized animal. They called the substance antitoxin and their treatment serum therapy.
They realized that they needed to immunize large animals, such as horses and sheep, to produce enough antitoxin to protect humans.
Von Behring would win the first Nobel Prize in medicine in 1901 for his work on diphtheria.
Emil von Behring
- Shibasaburo Kitasato, about 1911
Shibasaburo Kitasato (1852-1931) made important contributions to the discovery of the bacteria that cause bubonic plague and dysentery, to the development of antitoxins for anthrax and diphtheria, and to the understanding of tetanus.
- National Library of Medicine
- Timeline Category:
Diseases & Vaccines