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st. antonys fire

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by

REMO IYVKAS

on 12 April 2011

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Transcript of st. antonys fire

St. Anthony's Fire
(ergotism/erysipelas)
By
Remo Iyvkas
&
Daisy Campos The History of Saint Anthony's Fire

On 15 August 1951 one in twenty of the 4000 inhabitants of another village in France called Pont Saint Esprit (Bridge of the Holy Spirit) went mad. They had hallucinations, writhed in agony in their beds, vomited, ran crazily in the streets and suffered terrible burning sensations in their limbs.

The madness was quickly diagnosed. They were suffering from St Anthony's Fire, a dreaded illness that was common in the Middle Ages. The cause was poisoning from a fungus (ergot) that grows on rye grass. The fungus contaminated the rye flour used in making bread.

Ergot contains a chemical that makes the sufferers go berserk and causes gangrene of the hands and feet due to constriction of blood supply to the extremities. If it is not treated (and this was not possible in the Middle Ages), victims had the sensation of being burned at the stake, before their fingers, toes, hands and feet dropped off.

St. Anthony's fire: The intensely painful burning sensation in the limbs and extremities caused by ergot, the consequence of a fungus (Claviceps purpurea) that contaminates rye and wheat.

The fungus produces substances (alkaloids) termed ergotamines that constrict blood vessels and cause the muscle of the uterus to contract. The ergotamines have been much used (and been very useful) for the treatment of migraine. They have also been used (and misused) as abortifacients (agents of abortion).
Symptoms:
•Burning arm pain
•Burning leg pain
•Hallucinations
•Muscle spasms
•Seizures
•Diarrhea
•Paresthesia
•Headache
•Itching Ergotism

Ergot contains ergotamine. In moderate doses, ergotamine causes the contraction of smooth muscle fibers, such as those in small arteries. Ergotamine has been used to control hemorrhage (bleeding) and to promote contraction of the uterus during childbirth. It is also used to treat migraine headaches (its major use today). Because ergot thrives in cold, damp conditions, northern France suffered over 100 outbreaks of ergot over the centuries, with one of the earliest outbreaks on record occurring in 944 AD when 40,000 people died. By 1039, when a nobleman named Gaston de la Valloire, who survived the disease by praying to relics of St. Anthony in Dauphiné where Crusaders brought the saint’s remains, the disease appeared with regularity. François Eudes de Mezeray’s Abregé Chronologique de l’Histoire de France mentioned this ergot epidemic. Valloire started a hospital and an order of monks called The Order of St. Anthony the Great (officially sanctioned in 1218) came to staff the hospital and care for the afflicted. Not until 1670 did a Dr. Thuillier, who apparently served as a physician to the Duke of Sully, figure out what caused ergotism. Most people of the day believed that witchcraft caused ergotism and some writers suggest that myths of werewolves evolved because of ergotism’s effects on the central nervous system of its victims.

Small, black tube-shaped sclerotium. That’s ergot.

Anthony Saint ( circa 250-350) Egyptian monk. St. Anthony is regarded as the founder of Christian monasticism. From the age of 20 he practiced an ascetic life, living in absolute solitude on mountains or in the desert. He occasionally emerged from his seclusion in order to instruct and organize the monastic life of other hermits who had imitated him or to preach against heresies. He is the patron saint of swineherds, and in the art of the Middle Ages he is shown with a small pig at his side. Since pork fat was used to dress the wounds of skin diseases, he became the saint of those who care for the sick, and skin diseases such as erysipelas and ergotism became known as Saint Anthony's fire. Treatment:
Depending on the severity, treatment involves either oral or intravenous antibiotics, using penicillins, clindamycin or erythromycin. While illness symptoms resolve in a day or two, the skin may take weeks to return to normal.

Because of the risk of reinfection, prophylactic antibiotics are sometimes used after resolution of the initial condition. However, this approach does not always stop reinfection In large doses, ergotamine paralyzes the motor nerve endings of the sympathetic nervous system. The disease ergotism (St. Anthony's fire) is caused by excessive intake of ergot. This can occur by the overuse of the drug or by eating baked goods made with contaminated flour, as happened in the Middle Ages. (Ergotism also can affect cattle, by their eating ergot-infected grain and grass).

Acute and chronic ergotism are characterized by mental disorientation, convulsions, muscle cramps, and dry gangrene of the extremities.

A psychoactive drug, lysergic acid diethylamide, best known as LSD, is chemically related to ergotamine In excess, ergotamines are highly toxic and cause symptoms such as hallucinations, severe gastrointestinal upset, and a type of dry gangrene. Chronic ergot poisoning (ergotism) was rife during the Middle Ages due to the consumption of contaminated rye.

St. Anthony's fire referred not only to ergot poisoning but also to erysipelas, a type of spreading hot, bright red strep skin infection.
Symptoms:
•Nausea
•Vomiting
•Gastrointestinal symptoms
•Central nervous system symptoms
•Mania
•Psychosis
•Peeling skin in extremities
•Weak peripheral pulse
•Loss of peripheral sensation
•Edema
•Tissue necrosis - gangrene
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