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Glass ampoule of dysentery vaccine, Paris, France, 1917

This vaccine was made by Laboratoire de l'Armée (the Army Laboratory) in Paris, France in 1917. The vaccine would have been injected through the skin and was intended to provide protection against a form of dysentery known as Flexner’s dysentery. Simon Flexner (1863-1946), an American bacteriologist, identified the bacteria that caused the disease while working in the Philippines in 1899. The vaccine would have been used to vaccinate French troops during the First World War. Preventing disease was essential to keep large numbers of troops healthy, especially when soldiers were living in close quarters.

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Glossary: dysentery

Infectious disease with symptoms including diarrhoea, bleeding, and abdominal cramps. It spreads in contaminated food and water, especially in the tropics.

Glossary: vaccine

A substance given to humans or animals to improve immunity from disease. A vaccine can sometimes contain a small amount of bacteria that is designed to stimulate the body's reaction to that particular disease. The first vaccine was developed in 1796 by Edward Jenner to prevent smallpox.