Over 1,000,000 families in the rural South eat nothing but salt pork, corn meal and molasses. Their members are frequent victims of that painful deficiency disease, pellagra, with its attendant diarrhea, dementia, dermatitis. Physicians have known for nearly 25 years that small amounts of green vegetables and milk will forestall the disease. But still pellagra continues. In its advanced stages it has been considered incurable, since the patients are unable to ingest the necessary kinds of food.
Last week the Journal of the American Medical Association printed two articles on pellagra† showing the startlingly beneficial results of a new treatment.
Nicotinic acid, a distant relative (about second cousin once removed) of tobacco's nicotine, is found in yeast, wheat germ and liver. When considerable quantities were fed to some 300 patients with pellagra, their sores healed, their cramps disappeared. Even patients who were violently insane dramatically regained their wits within 48 hours. In a few days they were able to eat pellagra-preventing foods.
The dose is not yet standardized, some patients requiring more of the drug than others, and its precise effects are not perfectly known. Only unpleasant reactions were flushing, itching and sensations of intense heat in various parts of the skin. There are many relapses, mostly because the patients, when convalescent, have to return home, where once again they tuck in to the old bill-of-fare: salt pork, corn meal, molasses.
†NICOTINE ACID IN THE TREATMENT OF PELLAGRA, by Dr. Clarence Nall Bogart of Forrest City, Ark.; THE TREATMENT OF SUBCLINICAL AND CLASSIC PELLAGRA, by Drs. Tom Douglas Spies, William Bennett Bean of Cincinnati, Ohio, & Dr. Robert Edwards Stone of Birmingham, Ala.