Wassermann, August von (wŏsˈərmən, Ger. ouˈgŏst fən väsˈərmän) [key], 1866–1925, German physician and bacteriologist. In Berlin he was director of the department of experimental therapy and serum research (1906–13) at Koch Institute and director of experimental therapy (from 1913) at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. In addition to developing inoculations against cholera, typhoid, and tetanus, he devised the Wassermann test (1906), used in the diagnosis of syphilis. A positive reaction when the blood or spinal fluid of the patient is tested indicates the presence of antibodies formed as a result of infection with syphilis (even though symptoms of the disease may not be observable at the time). A few other diseases, however (such as leprosy), also sometimes produce a positive Wassermann reaction.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.