Life At Point C

Experiencing Life along the Silk Road

Snake Oil

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Coming from a medical background, my ears often perk up when I hear about especially odd treatments for diseases with well known, well documented treatments. Unless I am teaching a full on medical class at the time of discovery of said odd treatment, I do not say a thing. Medical advice, when unsolicited, is generally speaking a waste of breath. I think this is why snake oil salesmen of yonder years actually succeeded in their endeavors, because once we buy into a cure, we need a microscope and a miracle before we are willing to abandon our snake oil.

All this build up to tell you about an especially odd cure for Tuberculosis. Friends of ours were complaining a while back that their neighbors have what they call a dog farm. So, needless to say, there is a lot of barking that goes on right next door, and since I don’t know what a dog farm is good for, I asked innocently about this very strange practice. Well, it seems people drop off unwanted dogs who are then euthanized and their parts sold off for various consumptions. The most profitable being the boiling down of dog fat which is used to “very effectively” treat TB. Seriously? Again, my eye brows go up, and I listen, without saying much, since my friend doesn’t prescribe to this treatment, but just knows of its existence. Yes, you put a vial of dog fat in your tea if you have TB and the fat has healing powers. Since I knew we would not get into much of a medical discussion, I dropped the conversation. But, a couple months later I came across a little old lady selling vials of dog fat for that very purpose in the little village we live in.


The best way I can find to fight this odd practice is with truth. So, whenever I find myself in a teaching opportunity at a hospital I take the time to specifically teach about TB treatment. Kyrgyzstan is one of the high burden countries for MDR and XDR TB, which for such a small country on the world scale is a pretty inauspicious badge of honor. In this case, knowledge is the best weapon, but even in a medical teaching environment I still watch the faces and realize often, what the rest of the world thinks is good treatment is still just unsolicited advice.



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