bugs for medicine and other old practices

We all know that we didn’t start with all of our medical advances. Fact is that many of them had to be discovered. What we used now, however, might have actually been used hundreds of years ago.

A leech on a leg

We’ll start with leeches. Leeches are used now to encourage blood flow, most commonly in a reattached finger. The reason why they use leeches is the leech will inject an anticoagulant (something to keep your blood from clotting) into just that area of your finger, so you don’t get something so systematic. If they don’t use leeches, they’ll probably use a drug called heparin.

As a note, most biting bugs (on Earth) inject an anesthetic, so you can’t feel them, and an anticoagulant, so they can suck your blood better better.

Moving on, we’ll look at maggots. I actually heard of this one from House (the TV show)  but I think that it is more widespread than they made it seem.

Maggots Cleaning a Wound

Maggots like to eat dead tissue, so when they are placed on an area of dead skin, they’ll eat the dead skin and usually kept the healthy skin in tack. A negative side of using them is that I’ve heard you have to stay awake during it, in case they touch or eat a nerve. (Then again, it’d be the same as an angiocardiogram, where they inject dye into your heart to observe  if your vessels are clogged or blocked and they must keep you awake in case you have a heart attack.)

So, we’ll move away from bugs now and onto dysentery. Basically, dysentery is diarrhea caused by some kinda of infection, be it bacterial, protozoal or even viral. There was a lot of dysentery during the American Civil War. And what would they use to treat it?  Morphine actually.

A poppy plant, where morphine comes from.

See, morphine has one very common side effect and that is constipation.  Since the Civil War was in the early 1860s, they could do a lot of the things we would do today. (Antibiotics or  antiprotozoal as indicated, rehydration, ect.) But they gave morphine and supposedly, they had just as many people addicted to morphine because of dysentery as they had because of wounds.

This last one isn’t as interesting as the rest. But, just in case you need an anaerobic chamber, I’ll tell you. What scientists used to do, if they wanted to get a place without any oxygen, was light a candle and put it in an enclosed container. The candle would use up all the oxygen and so long as their specimen was inside the container before they lit the candle, they created a (mostly) anaerobic container. Pretty smart if you ask me.

So, like I always say, don’t know if you can use these or not for a story. Maybe you were trying to figure out how to get someone an anticoagulant after their ship crashed and ruined all of their medical supplies, although, honestly, I was thinking of these for more fantasy themes. Anyway, hope you learned something interesting today.

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About Abigail

I'm an elementary education major at a college in the Midwest. I might graduate as early as December '13 but more likely May '14. I write when I can. I also knit on occasion, draw, do homework and contradict teachers to make people think. :)

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