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Magnesium as toxic shock key.

Magnesium as toxic shock key

Harvard University researchers report that magnesium may explain the connection between toxic shock and tampons.

Some strains of the ubiquitous bacteria Staphylococcus aureus produce a toxin responsible for toxic shock. The condition is marked by fever, shock and a skin rash on the hands and feet. In some people the condition can be fatal, but 95 percent of people have antibodies to the toxin and are immune to its effects.

The scientists tried to grow a toxin-producing strain in different media and found that it thrived in the presence of polyester foam, a constituent of the no-longer-marketed Rely brand of tampon. Little toxin was produced in the presence of other tampon materials, including cotton, viscose rayon and polyacrylate rayon, the last another highly absorbent material suspected of being a factor in toxic shock.

Further investigation showed that both the polyacrylate rayon and the polyester foam latch onto magnesium from the body-- with the foam a better binder--and that the bacteria produce more toxin in a low-magnesium environment. They conclude that in the vagina the two superabsorbent materials, which are no longer included in tampons, create a low-magnesium environment that promotes toxin production.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Jun 15, 1985
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