Home > Pellagra disease (niacin deficiency)
Pellagra disease is due to niacin deficiency (vitamin B3, nicotinamide, niacinamide or nicotinic acid deficiency) and was affecting whole population in the early 1900s in Southern states of USA.
This disease was first described by Gaspar Casal in 1735 in Spain and it was earlier called 'Asturian Leprosy'.
As pellagra outbreaks occurred usually in regions where corn (maize) was the main crop and staple food it was believed that maize was carrying some infection or toxin.
In early 1900s, in the southern states of USA pellagra became a epidemic with more than 1300 deaths in 1916.
About 100,000 Americans were affected. Still the scientific community was believing that epidemic was due to some germ or toxin in maize.
To tackle this problem and find a cure for this epidemic, The Spartanberg Pellagra Hospital was set up in Carolina for the primary research on cure for the epidemic in 1914.
Dr.Joseph Goldberger was asked to study pellagra disease by the government of USA and was asked to work from the above hospital.
Goldberger while working on diet of prisoners established that pellagra disease was linked to diet.
In 1926, Dr.joseph Goldberger further proved that a balanced diet or a little amount of yeast (brewer's yeast) prevented the symptoms.
Though his research report was received with skepticism, in 1937 Conrad Elvehjem cured black tongue condition in dogs with vitamin niacin.
The primary cause of pellagra disease: is the deficiency of vitamin B3 otherwise known as niacin, nicotinic acid, nicotinamide or niacinamide.
The deficiency of the essential amino acid tryptophan also resulted vitamin B3 insufficiency.
Poor people who are undernourished and cannot afford to eat food of animal sources tend to get B3 deficiency.
People whose main food is maize, are affected by pellagra as the niacin in the maize is not in a freely available form.
Poor nutrition, alcoholism, certain drugs, certain diseases and health conditions, altered protein metabolism, cancer are among the causative factors for developing niacin insufficiency.
Signs and symptoms of pellagra: Dermatitis, photodermatitis, glossitis, skin lesions, hair loss, oedema, weakness, diarrhea, insomnia, aggressive behaviour, apathy and dementia and eventual death are encountered if untreated.
Diagnosis, treatment and prevention of pellagra: The typical symptoms of dermatitis, diarrhea and dementia help to point at niacin deficiency.
However in the early stages it is difficult to find the reason for this ailment.
Analysis of urine for excretion of n-methylnicotinamide also helps to know about the presence of vitamin B3 deficiency.
Supplementation with vitamin B3 is the treatment for controlling the symptoms.
Causes of pellagra disease.
What is pellagra disease? - Niacin deficiency.