The Pellegra Story (based on SEPUP SALI) Life Science

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The Pellegra Story (based on SEPUP SALI) Life Science

The Pellagra Story

Pellagra was first identified among Spanish peasants by Don Gaspar Casal in 1735. A loathsome skin disease, it was called mal de la rosa and often mistaken for leprosy. Although it was not conclusively identified in the United States until 1907, there are reports of illness that could be pellagra as far back as the 1820s. In the United States, pellagra has often been called the disease of the four D's -- dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia, and death. National data is sketchy, but by 1912, the state of South Carolina alone reported 30,000 cases and a mortality rate of 40 percent. While hardly confined to Southern states, the disease seemed especially rampant there. Between 1907 and 1940, aprroximately three million Americans contracted pellagra and 100,000 of them died. A worried Congress asked the Surgeon General to investigate the disease. In 1914, Joseph Goldberger was asked to head that investigation.

The Pellagra Story Warm Up: How is Science used to study people?Vocabulary:1. ethics - beliefs of what is right and wrong2. hypothesis - a scientific prediction based off of previous knowledge of a subject3. evidence - pieces of information gathered in an experiment4. observation - pieces of information gathered by using the 5 senses5. Inferences - a prediction based off of an observation6. trade-offs - is something given up in selecting one alternative over another

Goldberger vs. The South If poor diet resulting from poverty among Southern tenant farmers and mill workers was the root cause of pellagra, then the only real cure was social reform, especially changes in the land tenure system. A dramatic drop in cotton prices in 1920 and the attendant decrease in the income of many Southerners occasioned a spike in the number of reported pellagra cases. Goldberger publicly predicted dire public health consequences for 1921 when there might be as many as 100,000 pellagra cases including 10,000 deaths and even worse for 1922. Newspaper headlines warning of famine and plague in the South caught the eye of President Warren G. Harding, who asked Surgeon General Hugh Cumming for a report and was supportive of PHS appeals for an increased budget for hospitalization and supplies. The Public Health Service called upon Southerners to provide local relief for the poor. However, the response of many in the South was the opposite of grateful and magnanimous. Enraged Southerners, led by South Carolina Congressman Jimmy Byrnes, denounced the negative characterization of their region and feared that it would discourage economic investment and tourism in the South. They believed that Southern pride and Southern prosperity were on the line.

Pellagra today?Today, pellagra has been all but banished, except for infrequent occurrences during times of famine and displacement.

Other exampleson a handout: Click here.

Symptoms of pellagra include:Delusions Diarrhea Inflamed mucous membranes Mental confusion Scaly skin sores


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