News

Mystery infections traced to blood-shedding religious ritual

Shiite Muslims flagellate themselves with knives attached to chains to mark Ashura in Karachi, Pakistan, on Oct. 12, 2016. Shiites mark Ashura, the 10th day of the month of Muharram, to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, at the Battle of Karbala in present-day Iraq in the seventh century. (AP Photo/Shakil Adil)

NEW YORK (AP) — Add self-flagellation to the list of ways to get a dangerous viral blood infection.

Researchers said Wednesday (March 13) that they were initially puzzled how 10 British men had become infected with a little-known virus, because the men hadn’t taken risks usually associated with the infection.

But then investigators learned they had participated in blood-shedding religious rituals — cutting or whipping themselves — in Iraq, Pakistan, India and the United Kingdom.

“There have been suggestions that you might spread infections through this route, but it has never been described before” in a published medical study, said Dr. Divya Dhasmana of St. Mary’s Hospital in London.

She is one of the authors of the study released Wednesday in a journal published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The men were infected with human T-cell leukemia virus type 1. Most people infected with the virus never develop symptoms, but some develop terrible illnesses, like a deadly blood cancer or a debilitating nervous system condition.

HTLV-1 spreads through breastfeeding, sex, blood transfusion and sharing of needles. Experts have estimated that up to 10 million people worldwide are infected, though it is considered relatively rare in the United States and United Kingdom.

None of the men in the study had symptoms. They were diagnosed through tests that preceded blood donations or in vitro fertilization procedures, tests that are not routinely performed in other settings.

They came to the attention of researchers at St. Mary’s Hospital, which is a referral center in England for HTLV-1 cases. The mystery was solved when Dhasmana noticed scars on the back of one man, leading to questions that revealed all 10 men had participated in religious self-flagellation.

One ritual involves striking the forehead with a knife and then passing it along to other men. Another involves striking the back with a chain of blades or other bladed implement.

One man said that when he did it, the blades being passed around were soaked in a bucket containing an over-the-counter antiseptic solution. But that is inadequate to prevent spread of HTLV-1, Dhasmana said.

The practice of whipping or cutting oneself has been practiced among different religious groups, most notably by Shiite Muslims on the holy day Ashura. Usually only men do it, and it’s controversial even within religious communities.

Dhasmana said: “Our message is not ‘Don’t do it.’ Our message is ‘If you do it, don’t share equipment.'”

(The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.)

About the author

Mike Stobbe

7 Comments

Click here to post a comment

  • If/when aliens visit, one can picture their reaction in coming across the devoutly crazy. Run, don’t walk back to the flying saucer and continue the quest for intelligent life.

  • It is not just religion

    https://www{DOT}researchgate.net/publication/286501494_Playing_on_the_Edge_Sadomasochism_risk_and_intimacy

    as those in the Bay Area can verify easily by reading some on-line ads.

  • Home based job opportunities have become a trend in all over world these days. A newly released research shows above 71% of the people are working for on line job opportunities at their home without having issues. Everybody likes to spend time every day with his/her good friends by getting out for any lovely place in the country or any other country. So online earning allows you to accomplish the work at any time you want and enjoy your life. Although finding the right method moreover establishing a right destination is our ambition in the direction of financial success. Already many people are obtaining such a solid income of $45000 each week by taking advantage of highly recommended and powerful methods of generating income online. You can begin to get paid from the first day when you look at our web-site. >>>>> https://reurl.cc/Eo49n

  • This is just one more indicator of how organized religions are rooted in fraudulent tactics of instilling a combination of horrific fear and joyous expectations . . . in order to obtain dominion over the gullible masses.

2019 NewsMatch Campaign: This Story Can't Wait! Donate.

ADVERTISEMENTs