Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Thirteen horses and diphtheria

I love medical history; from the New York Times article, "Long Ago Against Diphtheria, the Heroes Were Horses":
The Claremont Riding Academy, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, shut its doors for good a few months ago. As the oldest continuously operated stable in New York City, it reached back to an era when horses were as common as taxis are today, and it prompted thoughts of some of New York’s most heroic horses: the 13 beasts of burden used in 1894 to produce the miracle drug of their day, diphtheria antitoxin.

The horses and their successors were stabled for nearly two decades at the New York College of Veterinary Surgeons, on East 57th Street and Third Avenue. Initially joined by a few sheep, goats and dogs, the horses prevailed because they were larger and better antitoxin factories: when systematically injected with diphtheria toxin, their immune systems were prompted to develop neutralizing antibodies against the germ’s poison. (Most survived the injections with nothing more than a fever and loss of appetite, but over the years quite a few horses succumbed to even tiny doses of toxin.)
Click here to read the entire article.

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