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April 1960

Cantharidin Poisoning

Author Affiliations


Departments of Medicine and Pathology, Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital.

AMA Arch Intern Med. 1960;105(4):574-582. doi:10.1001/archinte.1960.00270160072009

Cantharidin, commonly know as Spanish fly, was first isolated by Roviquet1 in 1810. It is the active constituent contained in the ovaries, soft tissues, and blood of the blister beetle, Cantharis vesicatoria. Fifteen hundred different species of cantharidin-yielding beetles are estimated to exist throughout the world.2 These are most abundant in southern Europe and western Asia, with several species occurring in the United States. Cantharidin, an anhydride of cantharidic acid, is a colorless substance,1,3 almost insoluble in water but readily soluble in acetone (1:40) and its chemical formula is C10H12O4.

It was used in the time of Hippocrates for the treatment of amenorrhea and dropsy.1 Groeneveldt,4 in his treatise on The Use of Cantharides in Internal Medicine, stated that its use was indispensable in bladder and kidney infections, stone, stranguria, dropsy, and certain venereal diseases. It has been employed in the treatment of impotence and for many years was

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