Diphtheria throat swab, 1930s

Throat swabs were used to control the spread of diphtheria in the UK in the 1930s.
throat swab

Many will be familiar with throat swabs as part of the lateral flow test used to test for COVID-19. This early example of a throat swab dates to the 1930s, and was used to test for a disease that we do not often hear of today: diphtheria.

In the UK, the method for controlling the spread of the disease in the 1930s was to test children using throat swabs, such as the one pictured, and to isolate anyone that tested positive for the presence of the bacterium.

Today, we look to vaccines to help end the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, it was the development of a vaccine that significantly reduced cases of diphtheria in the UK from an average of 58,000 cases per year in the 1930s to just 12 cases in 2019.  

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, June 2021, Vol 306, No 7950;306(7950)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2021.1.89156

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