Poland’s Biological Defensive

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

Poland’s Biological Defensive notes that “every attempt at biological warfare has been essentially offensive” — “except once, in Poland, during World War II, where a pair of quick-thinking doctors used a little-known organism to keep the Nazis at bay”:

The microorganism is Proteus OX19. In most ways it’s an entirely ordinary little bacterium. Its one remarkable feature is that human antibodies for Proteus OX19 cross-react with the antibodies for Ricksettia — the bacterium responsible for the deadly disease typhus. Blood from a patient infected with Proteus Ox19 will give a false-positive in the most common typhus screening method, the Weil-Felix test.

Enter the Nazis into Poland. Two physicians, Drs. Lazowski and Watulewicz, were living in Poland in 1939 when the Nazis invaded and began deporting the population into concentration camps. When a young man condemned to slave labor in Germany appealed to them for help, the two doctors tried a unique deception. They injected him with Proteus and then sent a blood sample back to Germany for testing. The Weil-Felix test came back positive for typhus, and the young man was spared.

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