Amy Pearl's journalism career began at the New York Post where she worked as a copy kid all through high school. She split her college years between ...
Nicholas Bakalar, the "Vital Signs" columnist for The New York Times, reveals surprising things you never realized you want to know about your body and your health. The Medicine Cabinet of Curiosities is a collection of trivia about the wonders of medicine, from rare but horrifying diseases to unexpected remedies. Here is an excerpt of Bakalar’s interview with Leonard Lopate.
Leonard Lopate: You find things that will gross people out. I wonder whether any of these things have grossed you out, like the mushrooms and the thread thing.
Nicholas Bakalar: Of course. That's part of the fun finding the gross stuff. Even some gross treatments for diseases. For example, wounds that don't heal can be treated with maggots.
Lopate: And that's something that we've laughed at, people from how many centuries ago? Two centuries ago.
Bakalar: Exactly, during Napoleonic wars someone observed that people who were wounded and came back with maggots in their wound were actually doing better than people who didn't have those maggots. And so what happens is that maggots, it turns out, like to eat necrotizing tissue -- that's tissue that is dying -- and they manage to clean up wounds.
Lopate:So that's a good side of the maggots. The bad side was when they did blood lettings using maggots.
Bakalar: Well, I don't know if they used maggots actually for blood letting. Blood letting of course was a treatment for all sorts of diseases. People thought that if you took blood out of people it would cure all sorts of diseases. Actually, it turns out that there are a few diseases that can be treated by blood letting. For example, people have disease of the blood where they have too much iron in their blood. Blood letting can be used for that. But as a treatment for colds and the flu, I don't think that will work.