Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Medical Dispatch: The Caduceus

"Our greatest triumph shall come from curing the ill."

- Hippocrates

The origin of the Caduceus (the logo associated with medicine depicting serpents winding around a stick) is thought to be linked to the parasitic nematode Dracunculus Medinensis. Its larvae reside in arthropods found in the waters around the Middle East, among other places. The arthropods are able to burrow under the skin of human hosts. The larvae develop just under the surface of the skin. If removed too rapidly, the full-grown worms rupture, spilling toxins into the human host, resulting in inflammation and infection. Proper removal entails gradually winding the body of the nematode around a stick on a daily basis until the full length has been removed. The image of the worm wound around a stick implies medical intervention, as seen in the Caduceus.

Of note, Dracunculus Medinensis is thought to be the "fiery serpents of the night" mentioned as one of the plagues in the Old Testament.

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