Medicine: The Conscientious Guinea Pigs

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The conscientious objectors who had starved for science were almost up to their old weights last week; the exhausted ones were rested; those with lice and the itch were clean and cured. The professors were ready to tell what they had learned from the C.O. guinea pigs who submitted to medical experiments (TIME, July 30). Some findings:

On Fatigue. Twelve volunteer C.O.s were kept awake for 112 hours, in an experiment run by Caltech's Dr. David Tyler for the OSRD. They lost the use of their higher brain centers first. After 48 hours, they couldn't talk straight; one man could not even remember the name of his college. Another saw stairs and tried to climb them. Physical responses did not slow up so fast. The boys were capable of efficient muscular spurts almost until they dropped, and played a good game of basketball on the fourth day. Efficiency doubled when they used benzedrine and similar drugs. It is a mistake, Dr. Tyler concluded, to give such drugs at the be ginning of a long grind. They are most effective when a man is already tired.

On Starvation. The 34 C.O.s at the University of Minnesota who were put on a concentration-camp diet until they lost 25% of their weight (not as much as a Belsen inmate but about the average war time civilian weight loss in Holland) have been better fed for the last four months. During the starving experiment, each got not more than 1,800 calories a day (normal for the work the boys were doing: 3,200). In their starved condition, even the idealistic C.O.s thought only of themselves. They were irritable, and their weakness was great—a 30 to 40% loss of strength. Their apathy was even greater, so they did not show their anger. They did not even think but preferred to just "sit and stew."

For the fattening-up process, each needed 4,000 calories a day, twice as much as relief agencies allow. (Buildup diets were very simple and contained only the grain, potatoes, cabbage, etc. likely to be available just after famine.) Conclusion of Dr. Ancel Keys, in charge of the experiment (which was also OSRD-financed): "It's nonsense to think you can starve [people] and make them believe in the four freedoms at the same time.... To talk about . . . the will of the people when you aren't feeding them is perfect hogwash."

On the Itch. Britain's Dr. Kenneth Mellanby, a wartime major, settled down with twelve C.O.s in a villa near Sheffield to investigate the itch (TIME, Nov 12), which has by now spread to well over a million Britons. He found that: 1) the incubation period of the disease is weeks, not days, as doctors have always supposed; 2) the best treatment is benzyl benzoate emulsion or sulfur ointment; 3) people develop itch immunity and are not as easy to infect as people who have never had it. By repeatedly having C.O.s don the still-warm, filthy underwear of itchy soldiers, and sleep in dirty, presumably itch-infested blankets, he proved once & for all that disinfection of linen does little or no good. Only two caught the itch that way. Transmission is by "close personal contact" or, as one poesy-minded C.O. put it:

Recondite research on Sarcoptes

Has revealed that infections begin

On leave with your wives or your children

Or when you are living in sin.