From the Middle Ages to the 19th century, bloodletting?bycutting or using leeches?was one of the major “cures” usedby doctors. It was abandoned in the mid-20th century afterantibiotics were invented. It seems primitive and dangerousto us today, but scientists have found that there was areason behind it.

Microbiologist Eric P. Skaar has discovered that the staphgerm, a leading cause of infections, fuels itself with iron.Removing red blood cells from the body removes the iron thisbacteria feeds on.

Iron specialist Tracy Rouault says, “How could a procedurepopular for 2,500 years have really been completely worthless?”

Bloodletting was used for lots of reasons, many that “didn’tmake good sense,” Rouault says. But when searched oldmedical texts, she found that starting in 18th-centuryFrance, physicians only advised doing it at the start of ahigh-fever illness. As late as 1942, an English languagemedical text advised early bleeding for high-fever pneumonia.

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