Saturday, September 25, 2021

Follow up to Follow up

Okay, I am sorry and will try to curtail this nonsense, but in the thread on FB on which i wrote the second previous blog piece -- which I followed up with the immediately previous blog piece -- one of the readers asked two questions that I needed to answer.

The first involved Vittorio Erspamer, the great pharmacologist who did the initial scientific investigations into the sapo/kambo frog, the Phyllomedusa bicolor.  The reader said he thought I brought the first samples of the medicine out from the jungle but he discovered that Erspamer had written a paper about the P bicolor in 1979 (actually a few) and wondered how he managed to get his samples and why was my part significant if people were already working with the frog. This is the answer:

Erspamer worked with the phyllomedusas and the phyllobates (the poison arrow dart frogs) for quite some time prior to me getting him the info. He got his animals in general frog collections rather than from an indigenous group. But while he imagined that many of the peptides would be bio-active , without a concrete history of human use he could not experiment on humans to test his theories. That's where I accidently and fruitfully came in to the picture.

The Persons second question asked how I could be the first to bring the frog out of the jungle since a missionary, Testavin (spelling???) had written something about it, including claiming to have used it once back in 1927. This was my clarifying response:

Yes, Tastevin discussed it a little, but I don't believe his notes were unearthed until at least 8-10 years after I published about it. Does not mean he was not earlier, but 1) no one knew it; 2) he had no photos, no identification, no samples. Somehow that counts and again, is where I come into the picture. But look, I never thought I was the first, never occurred to me until herpetologists and botanists told me.  Yes, I am proud of it and all of my work related to this frog and the medicine it produces, but I recognize it as a lucky accident that fell into a damned good reporter's hands--and I saw the importance and ran with it.

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