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Wooden box containing tube of calf lymph, England, 1888

After calves had been inoculated with smallpox, the lymph containing white blood cells which fight against disease are extracted and preserved in capillary tubes. This is then used to vaccinate people against smallpox. Calf lymph replaced the human kind in 1898 as human lymph spread other infections, such as syphilis. The vaccine was blown on to a clean arm and scratched into the skin using a needle or pin point. The vaccine was supplied by the Association for the Supply of Pure Vaccine Lymph, as the compliment slip shows.

Object number:

A662282

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Glossary:

Glossary: vaccination

The introduction of vaccine into the body for the purpose of inducing immunity. Coined originally to apply to the injection of smallpox vaccine, the term has come to mean any immunising procedure in which vaccine is injected.

Glossary: capillary tube

A glass tube with a very small internal diameter.

Glossary: syphilis

A sexually transmitted infection resulting in the formation of lesions throughout the body.

Glossary: lymph

Clear, slightly yellowish fluid derived from the blood and similar in composition to plasma. Lymph conveys white blood cells and some nutrients to the tissues.

Glossary: smallpox

Smallpox is an infectious virus unique to humans. It results in a characteristic skin rash and fluid-filled blisters. After successful vaccination campaigns throughout the 1800s and 1900s, the World Health Organisation certified the eradication of smallpox in 1979. Smallpox is the only human infectious disease to have been completely wiped out.

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.