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[IP] Re: licking fingers

In a message dated 5/30/02 8:13:22 AM US Eastern Standard Time, 
email @ redacted writes:

<< I think I confused the issue by using the term "bacteria." In the articles 
 mentioned in my original post, there was mention of the potential to 
 transport some sort of bad stuff from blood to saliva and vice versa that 
 could result in an infection. I am not remembering details so I may be using 
 wrong words to describe this. I think there was an article in Diabetes 
 Interview about this. Ms. Chait? Does this ring a bell? Please help if you 
 can. >>

I don't know about any articles in Diabetes Interview, but the December 1996 
Diabetes Forecast had something about "Licking fingertips after testing blood 
may lead to uncommon infection." No link to the article. 

I also found this one:  
Jan and Elvis

Licking Wounds Can Be Bad Medicine
 Case of diabetic man shows dangers of using tongue on cuts 
By Adam Marcus
HealthScoutNews Reporter

WEDNESDAY, April 24 (HealthScoutNews) -- Nothing's more natural than taking 
your tongue to a cut, but German scientists have found a good reason to think 
twice about licking your wounds. 

Infection experts in Nordhorn report the strange case of a middle-aged 
diabetic man who lost part of his thumb to a minor cut after evidently 
contaminating the wound with flesh-eating bacteria -- simply by sucking on 

The incident, which occurred last year, appears in a letter in tomorrow's 
issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The man, who suffered from Type 
I diabetes, was in a bicycle accident in which he suffered a dislocated thumb 
with a minor cut. 

Doctors repositioned the thumb, and sent the man home. Three days later, he 
was back, this time with a fever and an angrily swollen right hand. 

Surgery was performed immediately, and tissue samples from the area revealed 
flesh-eating germs, a condition known as necrotizing fasciitis. Although 
doctors were able to calm the systemic infection with more antibiotics, the 
thumb remained under attack -- and four weeks later it had to be lopped off 
at the last joint. 

Two of the bugs found in lab tests were Eikenella corrodens, a common tenant 
of the oral cavity, and Streptococcus anginosus. E. corrodens has been known 
to cause infections in people who've suffered oral cuts after being punched 
in the mouth, although in this case sucking alone seems to have given it an 
opening for damage. 

Diabetes may have had something to do with the man's condition. Elevated 
blood sugar can paralyze infection-fighting white blood cells, weakening the 
defenses against microbes. 

Dr. Ulrich Fischer-Brugge, of the Labor Centrum Nordhorn -- the lab that 
analyzed the man's tissue samples -- says in the last three years he has seen 
five cases of infection linked to wound licking. As instinctive as the habit 
may be, "it's not a normal way of wound healing," he says. 

Although Fischer-Brugge's group cautioned against wound licking after a cut, 
other scientists have found that saliva may carry its own antimicrobial 
ointment: nitric oxide. 

In the late 1990s, British scientists reported that saliva contains nitrate, 
which can be converted into nitric oxide, and that skin levels of the gas 
spiked when people licked themselves. 

Mark H. Schoenfisch, a chemist at the University of North Carolina, says 
nitric oxide can trigger cell death in bacteria. And researchers have shown 
that people fighting infection exhale more of the gas than those who are 
healthy, he adds. 

SOURCES: Ulrich Fischer-Brugge, M.D., Labor Centrum Nordhorn, Germany; Mark 
H. Schoenfisch, Ph.D., assistant professor, chemistry, University of North 
Carolina, Chapel Hill; April 25, 2002, New England Journal of Medicine 
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