Thursday, 30 January 2014


From the BBC

Doctors say a potential treatment for peanut allergy has transformed the lives of children taking part in a large clinical trial.

The 85 children had to eat peanut protein every day - initially in small doses, but ramped up during the study.

The findings, published in the Lancet, suggest 84% of allergic children could eat the equivalent of five peanuts a day after six months.

Excellent news. If you know someone with a peanut allergy it's potentially fatal and you've got to be careful, go out carrying an epi pen, etc. It still doesn't mean they can eat a bag of peanut brittle, but any contamination of nuts will not cause a problem. Well done to the people at Addenbrooke's for making the world a slightly better place.

There's a word for this, and it's known as mithridatism. Named after King Mithridates VI who was so scared of getting poisoned that he took small amounts of poison to build up a resistance. Ironically, he was later facing capture by Rome and tried to commit suicide by poison but couldn't because of this and had to get his bodyguard to stab him instead.

It's been a feature of some fiction, featuring both arsenic and iocaine, but in the real world people it's used by people who have to handle cobras as they can then build up a resistance to the venom.


Lola said...

Peanuts aren't nuts, says Mr Pedant.

Unknown said...

There are angry protests going on in San Fransisco over rising housing prices making it very difficult for the natives to suvive.

What I found interesting is that the protesters are blaming economic success. Specifically they are blaming the presence of Google and is employees.

Cant help but sigh really. Highly productive economic activity is supposed to be the answer to the worlds ills. And it is. But it just shows you that even good things cause such huge problems without LVT.

Im just amazed more people cant see it. Tax avoidance vanishes over night, affordable housing, the fairness of government revenue that comes from social wealth rather than personal income etc..

Mark Wadsworth said...

L, nice one.

Unknown, yes, that's an interesting one.

But the fact is that even without LVT, rental values would go up where Google is, from which "home owners" are currently insulated (and from which they benefit upside only).

And hence with LVT, everybody's rent or LVT bill would go up.

So with LVT, the local home-onwer-ists would be whining even louder actually, claiming that Google is "forcing them out of their homes" because their LVT has gone up.

Which would be true, in a way, but so what? Move with the times, people, move with the times.

DBC Reed said...

@TS Mithdratism blimey! Well spotted! Not come across this since studying "Rappacini's Daughter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne .Did n't realise i) it had some scientific basis ii) that it's been a staple of fiction since antiquity to bang up to date.

The Stigler said...


Thanks. I came across it in a detective story, Googled it and found out that there was some basis in fact. Even though it's a book that's many decades old I can't name it as spoiling a detective novel is always wrong.

Mark Wadsworth said...

DBC, TS, as somebody who prefers documentaries to fiction, I have always been under the impression that to a certain extent animals can build up a resistance to certain 'poisons' or infectious diseases.

This doesn't apply to all poisons or all diseases, but it's pretty much taken as a given AFAIAA.

It's mainly a question of which things are on the list and which ones aren't - lead certainly is not, but snake bites and wasp stings are, as are many crowd diseases, or else we'd all be dead.

Bayard said...

Mithridatism would explain why the Chinese say that you're not bothered by the mosquitos in the place you grew up: your body no longer reacts to the anti-coagualant they inject into you.

The Stigler said...


The mosquito is a good example, or with a disease, we might consider chicken pox.

Mark Wadsworth said...

TS, I wasn't aware it works with mosquitoes, hence and why native Africans have their villages well away from the nearest river or marsh.

Oxfam and the like then whine that they have to walk two miles for fresh water, well yes, but they sensibly prefer that to being plagued with mosquitoes.

And I'm vaguely aware that native Africans have a better resistance to mosquito and water-borne diseases than white European settlers, but it's still a big problem, especially as Whitey tricked them into living in European-style settlements which by force of habit are near rivers and lakes etc.