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Article
January 11, 1941

MORSUS HUMANUSSIXTY CASES OF HUMAN BITES IN NEGROES

JAMA. 1941;116(2):127-131. doi:10.1001/jama.1941.02820020037009
Abstract

Trauma caused by human teeth (morsus humanus) may occur in two ways. The assailant may be the victim when his knuckles come in violent contact with the teeth of the person receiving the blow, or the victim may be the one who is actually bitten by another individual. The two methods of injury are responsible for about the same number of reported cases. Strictly speaking, trauma to the clenched fist is not an actual bite, but it is a more civilized manner of producing the lesion. Deliberately burying one's teeth into human flesh is reminiscent of primeval savage instincts, if not cannibalism, and impels us to camouflage "human bite" with the milder Latin "morsus humanus."

The remarkable feature of morsus humanus is the virulent, destructive trauma which so often follows an apparently trivial wound. Mason and Koch,1 in their exhaustive paper, mention three factors which cause the excessive, and

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