Thursday, October 25, 2007

Housewatch - Episode 4.4

This week on House, the girl was unfortunate enough to have ergotism, a historically common, but now rare, disease.

Ergotism is a result of poisoning by ergot, a fungus (Claviceps purpurea) that grows in rye, and other cereals. In this episode, the patient was baking her own organic rye bread at home. So, she ate it, and the toxins produced by the fungus caused the illness.

The mold can continue to grow in the rye, and secrete a toxin that causes a variety of neurological effects, which can lead to seizures and hallucinations, both of which the patient had. It's also possible to have vascular effects, such as the bleeding the patient had. In worse cases, limbs can fall off.

There isn't a specific antidote, but it can be controlled with drugs that help the blood flow and sedatives for cases of hallucination.

Recently (OK, 1976), ergotism has been as a suggested cause of the Salem Witch Trials (original scientific journal article here). (I was just in Salem.) Briefly, in 1692 a bunch of girls accused people of being witches. Twenty people (men and women) died, 19 by hanging, and 1 by crushing.

Ergot poisoning has been a suggested cause, which largely, but not completely, accounts for the symptoms demonstrated by the girls. Others think they were just evil bitches.

And now, some speculation on what doctors will remain. Amber (blonde doctor) will survive, because she's been given a lot of lines, seems about as amoral as House, and is very ambitious, all traits that House will like. (Or perhaps she could be too similar, and get turfed like the old guy did this week.) The Indian guy will survive, because I've seen him in other shows, or movies. I don't remember. He's not a nobody. The black guy will probably end up part of the team too, because House can pick on him for religion, and therefore have a few religious dilemmas this season. And they wouldn't want to have a team of all-white doctors. That begs the question, where are the Asian doctors? (I can't recall ever seeing an Asian doctor on the show), who tend to have the highest marks on entering and leaving medical school.

The white guy disappears, because he's hardly said a word. The brunette doctor disappears because there can't be two women on the team, though I could see her staying on because she's the most attractive of the group. And the surgeon goes, because he's already a doctor and can simply return to practice.

Another moment of hilarity: Chase suddenly being a accomplished surgeon. Fine for tv, but in the real world, I don't think people realize just how far apart surgery and medicine are. Surgery is carpentry and sewing, medicine is pills, IVs and tests.