We have reported briefly (27) that some strains of scarlatinal streptococci produce qualitatively different and specifically neutralizable erythrogenic active substances which we regard as toxins. Before describing their properties, frequency of occurrence, and relation to scarlet fever it is deemed desirable to consider some of the theoretical obstacles that have been interposed in the way of accepting these substances as “true” toxins. Such is the purpose of this paper.

Some students (5, 8, 12, 23, 25, 31, 38, 43) of scarlet fever interpret its mechanism in terms of allergic rather than toxin-antitoxin reactions. They look upon the active substance in scarlatinal streptococcus filtrates as a new type of pathogenic agent—an “allergin” or “toxallergin”—and seem persuaded that the allergic hypothesis more plausibly explains the many puzzling observations that have been recorded during the recent productive years of study of this disease.

Our ability to control a disease improves pari passu with our understanding of its mechanism.

1

Presented at the thirty-third annual meeting of the Society of American Bacteriologists at Baltimore, December 28, 1931.

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