THE ABILITY of various arsenic compounds to destroy organisms (whether they be invading parasites or the host itself) depends on the combination of the metal with the sulfhydryl group of the living cell. This union alters the normal physiology of the cell and results in the eventual death of the organism. Experiment has shown that arsenic and other heavy metals will unite more readily with BAL (2,3-dimercaptopropanol) than with the sulfhydrl group of cellular structures,1 and, therefore, any available arsenic frees itself from the tissues and combines with BAL. It seemed theoretically possible, therefore, that if a supply of BAL were accessible to arsenic injected into a patient who had active lesions of syphilis, the arsenic would be so immobilized by the BAL as to have no effect on the Treponema pallidum present, which would, indeed, continue to live and multiply. The following studies of cases seem to substantiate
DE OREO GA. SUPPRESSION OF TREPONEMICIDAL ACTION OF ARSENIC WITH 2,3-DIMERCAPTOPROPANOL (BAL): Report of Clinical Observations in Five Cases. Arch Derm Syphilol. 1947;56(5):695–698. doi:10.1001/archderm.1947.01520110141017
Coronavirus Resource Center
Customize your JAMA Network experience by selecting one or more topics from the list below.
Create a personal account or sign in to: