In 1883-4, a link was discovered between the presence of the Klebs-Löffler bacteria in the throat and subsequent infection with diphtheria. Over the next decade, the diagnostic use of this association was developed so that those suffering from diphtheria could be identified more accurately. The MAB decided that its fever hospitals needed a central bacteriological laboratory. Initially, from 1st January 1895, the testing of samples was performed under contract in facilities provided by the Royal Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons. This arrangement ended in 1897, from which time the testing was carried out in the Board's fever hospitals. The Royal Colleges also provided the Board with an antitoxin serum for treating diphtheria which was obtained from immunised horses. This continued until 1904 when the MAB's own staff took on the work although using the Royal Colleges' laboratories on the Victoria Embankment and stables at Balham.
With the continuing growth in both testing and serum production, the Board decided to set up its own facilities. The new laboratories and accompanying stables were opened in 1909 at Belmont, near Sutton in Surrey. The was situated just to the north of the Fulham union's Belmont workhouse, formerly the South Metropolitan District School.
In May 1913, the Board employed its first full-time research pathologist Dr W Mair, initially for one year. Over the next few years, MAB staff conducted studies into scarlet fever, diphtheria, typhoid and measles.
In 1923, Belmont began to specialize in serum production, with routine pathological testing being done at the Board's hospitals. Specialised testing facilities were set up for northern London at the North-Eastern Hospital in South Tottenham, and for southern London at the Park Hospital in Lewisham.
- Ayers, Gwendoline, M. (1971) England's First State Hospitals and the Metropolitan Asylums Board (Wellcome Institute of the History of Medicine, London).
- Powell, Sir Allan (1930) The Metropolitan Asylums Board and its Work, 1867-1930. (MAB, London)
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