Definitions

antitoxin

antitoxin

[an-ti-tok-sin, an-tee-]
antitoxin, any of a group of antibodies formed in the body as a response to the introduction of poisonous products, or toxins. By introducing small amounts of a specific toxin into the healthy body, it is possible to stimulate the production of antitoxin so that the body's defenses are already established against invasion by the bacteria or other organisms that produce the toxin. See immunity.

Antibody formed in the body in reaction to a bacterial toxin, which it can neutralize. People who have recovered from bacterial diseases often develop specific antitoxins that give them immunity against recurrence. Injecting an animal (usually a horse) with increasing doses of toxin produces a high concentration of antitoxin in the blood. The resulting highly concentrated preparation of antitoxins is called an antiserum. The first antitoxin developed (1890) was specific to diphtheria; today, antitoxins are also used to treat botulism, dysentery, gas gangrene, and tetanus.

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An antitoxin is an antibody with the ability to neutralize a specific toxin. Antitoxins are produced by certain animals, plants, and bacteria. Although they are most effective in neutralizing toxins, they can kill bacteria and other microorganisms. Antitoxins are made within organisms, but can be injected into other organisms, including humans. This procedure involves injecting an animal with a safe amount of a particular toxin. Then, the animal’s body makes the antitoxin needed to neutralize the toxin. Later, the blood is withdrawn from the animal. When the antitoxin is obtained from the blood, it is purified and injected into a human or other animal, inducing passive immunity. To prevent serum sickness, it is often best to use antitoxin generated from the same species (i.e. use human antitoxin to treat humans).

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