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A serum product, cultivated from animal (usually horse) blood, that counteracts the effects of toxins (poisons) certain strains of anaerobic bacteria produce when they enter the body. The antitoxin binds with the toxin that is circulating in the bloodstream, neutralizing it.
Some antitoxins, such as those for Clostridium tetani (tetanus) and Corynebacterium diphtheriae (diphtheria), are effective prophylactically (administered to prevent illness); doctors administer these as vaccines.
Others are effective therapeutically; doctors administer them when exposure triggers illness, such as to Clostridium botulinum (botulism). Antitoxins for tetanus and diphtheria also have therapeutic action in people who develop these conditions.
About 10 percent of people have allergic reactions to antitoxins. Giving smaller amounts of the antitoxin over a longer period of time, such as when treating disease, often mitigates the reaction.
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