Medicine: Sign of the Wolf

Only a few days before she was to marry her college sweetheart, Joan, 23, received shocking news. Her Wasserman test had turned out positive, indicating that she might have syphilis. Refusing to believe those results, she promptly demanded and got another examination—which confirmed that she did not have syphilis. The "false positive" had been caused by a more serious ailment: the baffling—and as yet incurable—disease of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), which afflicts perhaps half a million people in the U.S.

Striking predominantly women in their childbearing years, lupus erythematosus ("red wolf disease") was...

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