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Science Finds Healing in Halloween Horrors
Date:10/30/2009

ing lizards known as Gila monsters. Byetta (exenatide), a diet drug which in one trial helped overweight people with diabetes shed an average of 11 pounds over three years, was based on the spit of the venomous striped lizard.

Other slithery, slimy creatures have their good side. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are probing whether ingesting parasitic "helminth" whipworm eggs (in capsule form) can combat the flare-ups associated with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. It sounds yucky, but scientists reckon that letting the eggs hatch in the intestine could trigger a favorable immune response in patients. The worms normally live in pigs.

Next up: maggots and leeches. Both have been approved as bona fide "medical devices" by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to clean up wounds, although they're called "medical maggots" and "medicinal leeches" in scientific circles. In 2005, an FDA panel voted to classify both organisms as "non-exempt, Class II medical devices with special controls." In the case of the maggots, the special "controls" referred to instructions to prevent "escape of adult flies," and, in the case of leeches, a guidance document stating that "discarded leeches should be treated as biohazard waste due [to] their contact with blood."

Halloween isn't all monstrous, of course. On "treats" side of the holiday, keep in mind that the sugar in your candy bag has been used for millennia as an antibiotic.

"Huge clinical trials show that putting honey or sugar on antibiotic-resistant infections of the skin will often kill the bacteria," Root-Bernstein said. "This is one of the oldest treatments that exists. The reason it works is the same reason that sugar protects jelly from going bad. Basically, sugar is a preservative is the simple explanation. The more technical explanation is 'osmotic pressure.' Bacteria and fungi can't grow on something that has a high sugar content because the sugar sucks all
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