Race for a Remedy | History| Smithsonian Magazine

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2023-03-19 01:30:05

Among the more than 100,000 items in the Smithsonian's medical collections are a horse's halter and a vial of botulinum antitoxin derived from horse's blood. Botulinum toxin is the most powerful and deadly of all natural poisons — gram for gram more lethal than nerve agents.

The halter and vial of antitoxin came from First Flight, a 1,200-pound thoroughbred that holds a record of service to this country few humans or animals can rival.

After being injected by U.S. Army researchers with inactivated toxins to stimulate his immune system, First Flight became, in 1990, the world's only known source of antitoxin against all known types of the neurotoxin that causes botulism — a paralyzing, and potentially fatal, disease. For at least one young family, the existence of that antitoxin turned a terrifying ordeal into a story with a happy ending.

On December 29, 1997, Tracy Baird gave birth by cesarean section to a third daughter, Tessler. Three days later, Tracy and her husband, William, took their baby home.

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