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[Perspectives] Grey-market medicines: diphtheria antitoxin and the decay of biomedical infrastructure

More so than most of its European neighbours, Spain at the turn of the 21st century thought it had relegated diphtheria to the past: the country had not seen a case of diphtheria since 1986. Not, that is, until a 6-year old boy was diagnosed with the disease in May, 2015. Although diphtheria has been a curable disease since the development of diphtheria antitoxin (DAT) in the 1890s and its widespread manufacture in the early 20th century, scarcely a month after his diagnosis, the child succumbed to this disease thought to have been largely tamed by modern medical science.