The man who cut his finger on a chicken and smelled awful for five years

For all of you considering a job in the poultry industry, here's an occupational hazard you might not have thought of.

Back in 1991, a Welsh chicken dresser cut his finger on the job. This injury caused his finger to stink such that — according to his doctors — the scent "could be detected across a large room, and when confined to a smaller examination room became almost intolerable."

Reports Improbable Research's Marc Abrahams over at The Guardian of this mysterious biliousness:

In September 1991, a 29-year-old man who dressed chickens for a living cut his finger with a chicken bone. This fateful prick cause his finger to soon become reddish and smelly. The man got himself to the Royal Gwent Hospital, in Newport, Wales [...] The doctors treated the man with the antibiotic flucloxacillin. His hand still smelled.

Then they tried a different antibiotic, ciprofloxacin. His hand still smelled.

Next came erythromycin. Still his hand smelled.

Next up: metronidazole. The smell persisted.

The doctors delved into the hand surgically, but found nothing there of interest. They did a skin biopsy and cultured the microorganisms from it, hoping to discover some noxious bug. Here, too, they found nothing of interest.

Meanwhile, the man continued to stink.

After numerous tests and treatments — including further antibiotics, stool sampling, and UV light therapy — the man's finger stank for a good five years. Then suddenly, his finger stopped stinking. This mystery was detailed in the wonderfully titled, 1998-Ig-Nobel-winning paper "A man who pricked his finger and smelled putrid for 5 years" (The Lancet, paywall blocked). Moral of the story: don't cut your hands, ever.

Photo via PVC Coop.