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Raising more antibodies

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 16 October 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5969
  1. Robin Ferner, director
  1. 1West Midlands Centre for Adverse Drug Reactions, Birmingham City Hospital, Birmingham B18 7QH, UK
  1. R.E.Ferner{at}

Emil von Behring, who won the first Nobel prize for medicine, discovered antibodies against diphtheria toxin in 1890 and realised that the antibodies could neutralise the toxin.1 Von Behring’s work inspired Albert Calmette to raise antibodies to cobra venom in horses. Now there are antidotes to the venoms of everything from the Sydney funnel-web spider,2 via a South American caterpillar with poisonous bristles that cause a fatal haemorrhagic diathesis,3 to the Indian red scorpion, whose venom induces hypertensive crises (amenable to treatment with prazosin).4 Equine antivenin may stop you dying, but early reactions to …

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