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Salvarsan treatment kit for syphilis, Germany, 1909-1912

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Salvarsan was a synthetic drug produced to treat the STI syphilis. The drug was developed by Paul Ehrlich (1854-1915), a German medical scientist, and his team in 1909 after three years of research. Ehrlich coined the phrase ‘magic bullet’ to describe this new wonder drug. The diluted yellow Salvarsan treatment was difficult and painful to inject and it did not cure syphilis overnight. As it was an arsenic based compound, it was also toxic. Salvarsan would later be replaced by antibiotics such as penicillin. The drug in the kit was made by a German manufacturer Farbwerke vorm Meister Lucius & Bruning AG and is stamped with the date “3 February 1912”. It was sold by a British chemist, W Martindale, who added all the equipment to prepare injections.

Object number:

A600284

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    Glossary: penicillin

    The first antibiotic drug to treat infections which is made from the mould penicillium. Its discovery is attributed to Alexander Fleming in 1928.

    Glossary: syphilis

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

    Glossary: sexually transmitted infection

    Any disease transmitted by sexual intercourse. STIs include HIV/AIDS, syphilis, gonorrhoea, some chlamydia infections and genital herpes.

    Glossary: antibiotic

    A substance that is used to treat infections.

    Glossary: Salvarsan kit

    Also known as Arsphenamine or 606, Salvarsan is a synthetic form of arsenic that is used to treat syphilis.

    Glossary: magic bullet

    A remedy (drug or therapy or preventive) that cures or prevents a disease or number of diseases.