Glass tube from throat swab used to diagnose diphtheria


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Swab, cotton wool on metal rod, in glass tube, in wooden case, supplied by Kent County Council, early 20th century, for
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Glass tube. Usually contains throat swab, cotton wool on metal rod, in, in wooden case, 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 is the glass tube for a throat swab 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. The tube is pictured here alongside the swab and case.

On display

Science Museum: Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries

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Related people


Clinical Diagnosis
Object Number:
overall (without swab): 12 mm x 126 mm x 12 mm,
overall (with swab): 13 mm x 240 mm x 13 mm,
throat swab
  • furnishing and equipment
  • tools & equipment
  • dressings
  • swab
Loan, Wellcome Trust

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