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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
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
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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