Other medical stories, like the effect of coffee on health, are media perennials that often follow a yo-yo path, as contradictory stories along the way grab headlines and confuse the public. But if pumpkin rind doesn’t pan out as an antibiotic, we’ll probably never hear about it. My old friend and colleague at The Washington Post, the late medical writer Victor Cohn, often said that there were two kinds of medical stories that were guaranteed to get media attention: “new hope” and “no hope.”
The germ-fighting pumpkin story helped feed the 24/7 Web beast, but it had competition from some other great pumpkin stories however. And I do mean great pumpkins. Humongous pumpkins. This month, there were reports from Half Moon Bay, California, that an Iowa man’s 1,658-pound pumpkin won the thirty-sixth annual Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off. Not to be outdone was a pumpkin that reportedly reached 1,725 pounds in the Ohio Valley Giant Pumpkin Growers Weigh-In.
When the fall festivals are finished, perhaps these giant pumpkins and their skins can be shipped off to Korea for further study by the Chosun University scientists. In the meantime, stick to the inside of pumpkins for pies and pumpkin seeds, and please don’t treat your wounds or infections with leftover pumpkin rinds.
AUTHOR’S ENDNOTE: At the American Chemical Society’s spring 2008 meeting, Louisiana biochemists reported that proteins found in alligator blood might also be a source for developing new antibiotics to treat yeast infections. It seems that these fighting creatures may have developed the natural ability to fight off infections after their bloody battles. This, too, spawned irresistibly corny headlines, such as “Alligator blood may put the bite in antibiotic-resistant infections.”