The Discovery of Passive Immunity

After vaccinations were shown to be successful at protecting individuals against pathogens, researchers next wanted to know how it worked. To address this, immunologists Emil Behring and Shibasaburo Kitasato teamed up to work together in Germany. They injected serum from immunized rabbits into the abdominal cavity of six mice. After twenty-four hours they infected the treated and untreated mice with virulent tetanus bacteria. All of the control mice died, but the treated mice survived and showed no sign of infection. This important discovery showed that the substances that impart the protection appear in serum following immunization and that immunity can be passively acquired. Behring eventually received the first Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for this work. 

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