18 December 2008

Seven unexplained mysteries of medicine

New Scientist magazine has published an article that can puzzle any specialist. The phenomena described in it cause surprise, partly misunderstanding, but they are documented and studied by scientists from different parts of the world.

Allergy to water

It sounds absurd – considering that our body is 60% water – but some people do have allergies to water.

They can certainly drink it. The problem is caused by the contact of water with the skin. A few minutes of a bath or shower – and their skin becomes covered with red itchy spots.

For the first time such a condition (referred to by the medical term aquagenic urticaria) was described in 1964. It still has not found an explanation. The reason for the development of such an allergy may be, for example, the cytotoxic response of the skin to contact with water or an ultra-high sensitivity to its ions.

Chimera people

Imagine now that a genetic test shows that you are not the mother of your children, although you know exactly who gave them life. This is not science fiction at all. Such situations are noted in several countries of the world.

It turned out that the mother in such cases turned out to be a human chimera (two people in one). She is the fruit of the fusion of two fraternal twins, that is, twins obtained from different maternal eggs.

No one knows how often chimera people are born, but modern methods of artificial insemination obviously contribute to the spread of this phenomenon.

Foreign accent syndrome

If you wake up with a strong Jamaican accent despite the fact that you have never even heard of this island in your life, then you have developed a foreign accent syndrome.

The most famous such case occurred in 1941, when a Norwegian resident came out of shock after being wounded during a bombing and began to speak with a strong German accent.

Previously it was believed that the roots of the syndrome are psychological, but now scientists suggest that the cause of its development is damage to the speech parts of the brain due to strokes or injuries.

Perhaps the accent as such does not appear, and we, the listeners, subconsciously try to classify the modified speech of the victim.

Morgellon 's disease

Its symptoms: the growth of fibers outward from itchy areas of the skin, accompanied by sharp pain and sensations of stirring – as if a person is infected with parasites.

Thousands of people on the planet suffer from this disease, and its cause is unknown.

Turning to a doctor, they hear that this is a well–known mental disorder called delusional parasitosis, in which a sick person is unshakably convinced that unpleasant sensations are caused by the presence of parasites in the focus.

Who is right? It's not clear yet, but research is underway. Some scientists believe that the reason for the growth of the described fibers is the bacterium Agrobacterium, which causes the development of tumors in plants.

The Madness of King George

British King George III suffered from a significant mental disorder, because of which he had to be tied up with a straitjacket.

Scientists believed that the reason for this was a genetic disease – porphyria. But in 2005, as a result of a study of the king's hair, an unexpected result was obtained: high concentrations of arsenic.

It is believed that the medicines given to the king contained arsenic, thereby aggravating his illness.

Stinking finger

An unusual case was described in one of the issues of The Lancet magazine in 1996. A 29-year-old man complained that his finger, accidentally pierced by a chicken bone five years ago, had been exuding a stench for a long time. The smell was audible at a great distance, and it was simply unbearable to examine a patient in a closed office.

The cause of the stench has not been clarified, modern antibiotics – it was assumed that the infection was to blame, although it was not possible to sow microorganisms – did not help the patient. Therefore, in the article, the authors asked for the help of colleagues who could face similar cases and successfully cure them.

What happened to the poor man next? The author of the article contacted colleagues who dealt with the patient. The answer was even more surprising: "After some time, the disease suddenly disappeared, by itself, it was unclear what it was."

The Tree Man

The arms and legs of Mr. Dede, a resident of West Java in Indonesia, look like branches, and he himself is like a half-tree–half-man.

What is the reason? Fortunately for the patient, this mystery has recently been solved.

A rare type of immunodeficiency is to blame for his condition, allowing the pappilomavirus, known to everyone suffering from warts, to escape from the control of the body.

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