6 Disgusting Ways Animals Can Improve Your Health
By and large, nature is disgusting. It's chock full of bugs and hobos and other things that roll in feces. But amidst that slurry of nasty, science has been finding a number of medical breakthroughs. Nauseating, repulsive medical breakthroughs.
Hippos are the guidos of the animal kingdom. They're huge, oily and they never sunburn. They're also known for being ridiculously territorial animals capable of gnawing a man to shreds with their vicious gums and Rubenesque, flapping jowls.
But, in studying these chubby, ill-tempered animals from a distance, one of the first things scientists noticed was their sweat. Rather than being clear like human sweat, hippo sweat is red and viscous. Noticing this was totally weird, researchers collected a bunch of hippo sweat probably by sacrificing a few grad students and running a swab across some hippo ass while they were distracted.
After a few hours of hard sciencing, they discovered that the sweat turned out to be a first-rate sunblock. It's filled with little microscopic structures that actually break up and scatter light molecules. It's also a first-rate antiseptic and an effective insect repellent. Kind of makes your sweat's ability to scare away women look pretty shitty by comparison, doesn't it?
Also this is how Hippo Trees are made.
Considering all the things it can do, hippo sweat is the obese, aquatic mammal wet-dream of any cosmetics company. As soon as scientists find a way to make it not smell like hippo B.O. and advertisers find a way to disguise the fact that it rolled off a hippo's ass, expect to see squeeze tubes of this stuff being sold around the globe.
Maggots have the worst P.R. department in the whole fucking insect kingdom. They're famous for turning up in the most horrible situations, from the basket of ham you left to rot on the back porch to the corpses of L.A. Hookers. To make matters worse for the maggot, their whole purpose of life is to grow up into a fly, which would be sort of like Andy Dick metastasizing into Carlos Mencia.
As it turns out, maggotkind's shitty reputation isn't entirely deserved. They're basically nature's answer to antibacterial soap. Maggots eat dead flesh, and doctors long ago realized that the maggot's tendency to wolf down dead skin can help people with infected wounds from succumbing to gangrene, at the low cost of stomach turning revulsion.
With the advent of modern antibiotics, Maggot Therapy declined in use but doctors never took it off the table entirely and, thanks to an increase of ultra-badass anti-biotic resistant bacteria, it's been making a notable comeback.
That's right, our mortal medicines cannot harm these highly advanced mutant bacteria, but they're not shit when put up against the heroic maggot. While bacteria can evolve to become capable of fighting off medicines, they haven't quite figured out how to jump their last evolutionary hurdle and become uneatable.
While drug laws haven't relaxed quite enough to let you buy cartons of medical maggots for home use, any doctor in America can prescribe them as treatment. And if you want to get them under the table you can always just leave some sausage out in the sun for a few days and cultivate your own.
You probably know that back in the day, medical professionals used leeches to treat pretty much everything from fevers to leech allergies. This old Greek fuck named Galen postulated that there were four humors in the body--blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile--and that an excess of one fluid over the others lead to the vast majority of ailments. If a patient presented with bloodshot eyes it wasn't from a late night grog bender, it was because they had too much blood and needed to be drained. All that extra blood can really fuck a guy up.
As you can imagine, this was all about as scientific as anything taught in a Deep South biology classroom. But, thanks to the reverence future generations of doctors held Galen in, it remained a prominent medical treatment for centuries.
As doctors began to refine their craft with innovations like washing their hands and not spitting in open wounds, leech medicine fell out of favor. But sometimes we see that the crazy old-time bastards had it right.
Recent studies have shown that leech saliva is basically a damned miracle elixir. Their spit is lousy with anesthetic, antibiotics and beneficial enzymes and anticoagulants that could prevent heart attacks and strokes.
The problem is, of course, people aren't huge on the idea of their surgeon striding into the operating theater with a big-ole jar full of leeches and pond water. So the research now is about trying to get the leech benefits without the leeches, probably the most hilarious being the "mechanical leech." Yeah, that'll make people feel better.
"Ms. Jones, you're going to feel a little pinch. But don't worry, that's just the leech cyborg clamping down on your neck."
Blister Beetle Poison
As you can imagine from the name, blister beetles are horrible little creatures that are real pains in the ass. Their main hobbies are slaughtering other insects, basket weaving and poisoning horses to death.
That's because they're full of a toxin called cantharidin, which is secreted by the male blister beetle and given to the female when they're mating, kind of like a really shitty fruit basket (which is to say any fruit basket). While not generally lethal to humans, their venom does cause extremely painful welts that look more obscene than genital warts.
Despite that, through the years blister beetles, like leeches, have been used for a wide variety of completely worthless medical purposes. At varying times they've been used to cure gout, rheumatism and impotency. Spanish Fly is actually made from ground-up blister beetles. Unsurprisingly, the only result has been generations of people inadvertently poisoning themselves, all bonerless and covered in wet, ugly welts.
Yet, also like leeches, modern scientists are finding out you can in fact use the poison cantharidin for all sorts of things. Today it can be found in real medicine curing warts, removing tattoos and punching cancer in the face, as scientists (in China, anyway) have discovered it inhibits the growth of a number of cancer cells.
So there's still hope for Spanish Fly, right? Are they working on that?
Shrimp are an amazing species, blessed with the rare abilities to be delicious, ugly as a mule's ass and really easy to catch. Even the most inbred son of the bayou can outsmart a herd of shrimp, which is why you can eat them for cheap in New Mexico even though nothing that even vaguely resembles a shrimp actually lives within a few hundred miles.
The only problem with eating shrimp is that you can never eat all of the damn things. You can eat the guts, even that little poop chute they call a vein to keep it classy, but you can't really do anything but slurp the shells and let them pile up next to your recliner.
Or so you thought. Some scientists in the army have found an extremely cool way to use those nasty old shrimp corpses to stop people from dying. They've developed a revolutionary medical patch that stops even the worst arterial bleeding entirely within one to five minutes.
By zapping out some of the chains in the atoms making up shrimp shells, this patch is able to control even hemorrhagic bleeding with incredible success, putting mankind one step further in our insatiable quest to kick death in the balls forever or, failing that, make drunken knife throwing competitions a little less lethal.
And after the knife-throwing we can all have a snack. Everybody wins!
The HemCom company is even now selling them in bulk to the U.S. Government, who expects them to reduce all combat deaths by 20-30 percent and leave our armed forces stinking of low tide.
Hookworms are just one more sign of Mother Nature's mindless, unreasoning hatred of the human race. They live in dense piles of rotting fecal matter, as well as the bodies of any people or livestock unfortunate enough to live near giant mounds of excrement. They breed rapidly inside their hosts and spread like wildfire around close-knit populations with poor sanitation, so keep your eyes peeled the next time you're in Detroit.
SUCK IT, DETROIT!
Once a hookworm finds its way inside of your body, they proceed to fuck like nasty monkeys until your insides are riddled with wriggling worm larva. The worms leech off valuable nutrients from your body and can cause a whole host of maladies from diarrhea to intestinal blood loss (which is the way polite people say "ass bleeding").
While hookworms are undeniably horrible for the poverty-ridden denizens of Third World Nations, they could prove extremely useful to those of us that won the cosmic jackpot and grew up in a developed country.
Professor David Pritchard and his team of bad ass Men of Science have a theory that small hookworm infections may be the most effective allergy medication on earth. Hookworms force your body's immune system to go into the physiological equivalent of a quarterback blitz in order to protect your intestines from the ravenous swarm of nematodes. Maintaining such a high-level assault force stops the rest of your immune system from going into overdrive, which renders your body unable to have a severe allergic reaction.
Thanks, you terrifying bastard.
All of the results aren't in yet, but it looks like a small infection of 10 or so worms isn't large enough to cause a danger, but appears to virtually shut down allergic reactions in the host and may be able to control asthma and Crohn's disease. Pritchard and his boys were so confident about their theory that they infected themselves with hookworms in order to prove it. Are you paying attention Hawking? That's how you do motherfucking science.
For movies that are depressing for a whole other reason check out Rick's look at 5 Awesome Movies Ruined By Last-Minute Changes. Or find out about some action stars whose careers had a less than happy ending in 5 Movie Martial Artists That Lost a Deathmatch to Dignity.
Or, visit the Cracked.com Top Picks to see what we're looking at instead of working.