Medicine: Better Than the Wassermann?

The widely used Wassermann test for syphilis has its faults. If the tested patient has recently been vaccinated, the Wassermann may be "positive" — the standard indication of syphilis. It may also be positive if he has any one of a long list of diseases, e.g., chicken pox, measles, malaria, pneumonia, meningitis.

Robert A. Nelson, a young (26) Johns Hopkins bacteriologist, and his co-workers have taken the first steps toward developing a more accurate test than the Wassermann. In the blood of syphilitics, they found specific antibodies (counter-substances) against Treponema pallidum, the spirochete that causes syphilis. Announcement of their discovery caused a...

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