Throat swab used to diagnose diphtheria, England, 1901-1930


Wooden case for swab. Label printed with the following text: 'Kent County Council. Diphtheria Diagnosis Outfit. The content of the enclosed tube have been sterilised'. Supplied by Kent County Council, early 20th century, for diphtheria diagnosis

Diphtheria is a potentially deadly contagious infection which especially affects children. In 1883, German bacteriologist Edwin Klebs (1834–1913) discovered the bacterium which causes diphtheria. This was then isolated the following year by fellow researcher Friedrich Loeffler (1852–1915), which meant that the presence of bacteria could be tested for and used to diagnose infection.

This throat swab was supplied by Kent County Council who would have supplied them to clinics and doctors’ surgeries to help monitor and check the spread of the disease. Diphtheria has been a notifiable disease since 1889, which means all cases must be reported for government statistics. Fortunately, diphtheria is now rare in the United Kingdom because of routine childhood vaccination.

Related people


Clinical Diagnosis
Object Number:
metal (unknown), wood (unidentified)
overall (open): 20 mm x 158 mm x 28 mm,
overall (closed): 20 mm x 149 mm x 20 mm,
throat swab
  • furnishing and equipment
  • tools & equipment
  • dressings
  • swab
Loan: Wellcome Trust

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