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June 27, 1980 - Image 38

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1980-06-27

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

38 Friday, June 21, 1980



Work
Dead Sea Drowning Victims Saved by Scientist's
high mineral concentration,

By LAURIE DROSSIN

From Ben-Gurion
University of the Negev

BEERSHEBA — Con-
trary to popular belief, it is
possible to drown in the
- Dead Sea. Every year sev-

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eral people do so without
having had their oxygen
supply cut off or being sub-
merged in this buoyant
magnesium phosphate,
potash, bromine-filled lake
— the lowest point any-
where on earth.
Now, a physiologist at
Ben-Gurion University's
Center for Health Sciences
has discovered just what
causes the unconscious
state and eventual death of
Dead Sea drowning victims.
By conducting experi-
ments on rats and carefully
examining the medical re-
cords of previous cases and
those recently brought to

Beersheba's Soroka Hospi-
tal — the teaching hospital
affiliated with BGU's medi-
cal school — Dr. Reuven
Yagil has shown that any-
one swallowing even a mere
3-4 ounces of Dead Sea
water who also has kidney
problems may die by "dry
drowning."
"In dry drowning cases
no water gets into the
lungs because of the re-
flex closure of the glottis
which prevents foreign
bodies from entering.
Death by asphyxiation is
caused by the extended
closing of the glottis."
Because of its extremely

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Dead Sea water has such a
horrible taste that no one
can drink it. The body
automatically rejects it. But
if a person slips and falls in
the shallow perimeter of the
Dead Sea, he may involun-
tarily swallow a bit of
water. But not enough to
make him gasp or stop brea-
thing.
Dr. Yagil applied for and
obtained a research grant
from the Israeli National
Lottery, which designates a
good part of its profits for
educational and medical re-
search, to help him under-
stand how it is possible to
drown from a gulp of Dead
Sea water. With these funds
he carried out extensive re-
search on rats.
"Inserting Dead Sea
water directly into the
stomachs of rats — even
they can't be force-fed it —
knocked them out," notes
the South African-born
veterinarian who teaches
his - speciality — physiology
— to BGU medical students.
"But, after a while, they
came to and acted normally.
Knowing that Dead Sea
water contains so many
minerals, I decided to see
what would happen if I
caused renal failure in the
rats. Sure enough, in every
-case where the kidneys did
not function properly, the
rats died."
The role of the kidneys
became even clearer
when Yagil analyzed the
concentration of mag-
nesium and bromide in
the victim's blood. "I
found a high level of
those elements in the
blood of both my rats and
in the medical records of
those humans who had
drowned in the Dead
Sea," reminisces Dr.
Yagil.
"Something clicked im-
mediately. Every doctor
knows that magnesium and
bromide are strong tran-
quilizers. All the victims —
including the rats — must
have died of an overdose of
tranquilizers, or by respira-
tory malfunction or by de-
struction of the mucosa of
the alimentary canal by the
bromides causing large in-
flux of materials which af-
fect the heart."
Dr. Yagil had a chance to
confirm his theories last
December when a nearly
dead middle-aged man was
brought to Soroka Hospital.
The man was saved owing to
the research done by Dr.
Yagil.

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