Friday Weird Science: Redder than a baboon’s butt

…can Sci use “butt” in her post title? I guess we’re going to find out!
Courtesy of NCBI ROFL, who gave me the idea to Pubmed this thing. Ozkaya, E. “An unusual case of mercurial baboon syndrome: lasting seasonal attacks in a retired metalworker”. Contact Dermatitis, 2008.
So what, you may ask, is baboon syndrome?
(Pics below NSFW. Really, it’s Friday Weird Science, is this even a question by now?)

Baboon syndrome is a dermatitis issue (skin-related) which is usually an allergic reaction caused by the inhalation of mercury. Mercury is not very good stuff, and thus it’s not too surprising that we’d have a nasty reaction. The interesting thing is how this reaction expresses itself. In some people, exposure to mercury results in a bright red itchy rash, primarily on the butt, around the anus and genitals, the inner thighs, and other areas like the backs of the knees, inside of the elbow, and the neck.
Looks like this:
Hmmm…a rash that appears bright red and primarily on your butt. WHAT should we call it?
Baboons -002.jpg
Oh. Right.
(I do wonder if the dermatologists who first described this issue tried to think of normal things to name it like “contact dermatitis anogenitalia”, and then one said “baboon butt!” and they all just fell over and snorted coffee out their noses. I would have.)
Anyway, most people who suffer this dermatologic reaction get it due to contact with mercury in things like thermometers. Often the reaction is very severe, and requires steroid treatment to clear it up.
In this case study, we’ve got a guy who suffered horrible recurrent baboon syndrome (I’m sure it was probably extremely embarrassing), and who worked in a foundry. He did handle mercury on a daily basis, but was very good about wearing his protective equipment. Still, he kept having to lose a lot of days at work because the allergic reaction was so bad. He ended up retiring early.
But what was interesting was that the attacks did not disappear, though you’d think they would once he was no longer working with mercury. In fact, he got attacks twice a year, in the spring and fall. They tested for everything, and the only thing he was allergic to was mercury.
The doctors were at a bit of a loss, until the patient remembered one rather important thing. He had a jar of mercury that he kept at home in his house. He ritualistically opened it twice a year, in the spring and fall, because he believed it would bring him LUCK. Once they got him to stop doing that, it was all smooth sailing. Something tells me the luck in that jar ran out, or perhaps it was just the mercury.
But seriously. You take early retirement from your job because of your intense allergic reaction to mercury, and you’re KEEPING IT IN YOUR HOUSE, and wondering why you keep getting the rash?? I imagined when he figured out how silly he was being, his face went redder than a baboon’s butt! Or perhaps, even redder than his own.
Ozkaya E (2008). An unusual case of mercurial baboon syndrome: lasting seasonal attacks in a retired metalworker. Contact dermatitis, 58 (2), 107-8 PMID: 18186745

5 Responses

  1. You apparently can use the word since we have an a posteriori example of it, and no buts.
    Now that we have it behind us, and before you find yourself fighting a rearguard action, we need to discuss why it is that you seem concerned over the use of the word in your title, but apparently enjoy a breathtaking fearlessness about backing it up with those pictures….

  2. “…then one said “baboon butt!” and they all just fell over and snorted coffee out their noses. I would have.”
    Thanks, I did just that as well. I’ll think of baboon butts at the most inopportune moments all day and chuckle, causing my family to question my sanity even more.

  3. well, it wasn’t specified whether that luck was of the GOOD or BAD sort…

  4. IanW: sciencebloggers have been requested before to keep foul language out of their post titles, as kids read some of the blogs, and links showing up on the sidebar with profanity or really really kinky stuff are not the best idea. I wasn’t sure where “butt” fell. After that, if you click on the link, I say it’s your fault. 🙂

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