Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V21, Page 352 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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GROUP XXV I. Antitoxins.—These are substances which antago- nize the toxins formed in the body by pathogenic organisms, the toxins of snake venom and other animal poisons, and vegetable toxins such as abrin, ricin, &c. A healthy person can be rendered insusceptible by gradually accustoming him to increasing doses of these poisons, and this immunity is due to antitoxins which are found in the blood-serum and which are products of the blood cells. The nature of these antitoxic substances is not definitely known, but they combine with and destroy the poisons. In specific germ diseases a similar antitoxin forms, and in cases which recover it counteracts the toxin, while the germs are destroyed by the tissues. Antitoxins can be prepared by immunizing a large animal, such as a horse, by injecting gradually increasing doses of specific toxins into its subcutaneous tissue. In due time the horse is bled, the serum is filtered free of blood corpuscles, and then constitutes the anti-toxic serum, which can be standardized to a certain potency. Such serums are injected subcutaneously in diphtheria, tetanus, streptococcic infections, plague, snake-poisoning, cholera and other similar diseases. They do not as a rule harm healthy men even in large quantities, but when repeated they often cause serious symptoms due to the body becoming more sensitive to the action of the horse-serum in which they are contained.
End of Article: GROUP XXV I

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