Best argument for antibiotics:

Syphilis in "The Libertine"

It cannot be said that actor Johnny Depp plays it safe with his career. Yet even a bold and risk-taking star such as Depp must have paused before signing on to shoot "The Libertine." As the hard living Earl of Rochester, a 17th century playwright, Depp scandalizes society with his bawdy shows and libidinous lifestyle.
Johnny Depp as the 17th century frat boy prototype, the Earl of Rochester.
All's fair in love until the naughty Earl's amorous pursuits lead to a mutilating case of syphilis. He then proceeds to lose romance, career, and even his nose in the process.

Party time is over as syphilis robs Depp's Earl of his healthy skin...
... and nose.
Covered in an unpleasant rash, Depp opts for thick white makeup. The shiny prosthetic nose is a bold fashion statement, but we doubt that Mr. Blackwell would approve. Another film that exposed syphilis was the life story of the 20th century sex researcher, Dr. Kinsey.

As "Kinsey," Liam Neeson is treated to a docu...
...showing the actual initial syphilitic spot, called a "chancre..."
...and the extensive rash, here taking over the back.

Syphilis remains a notorious infection. Caused by a type of bacteria called Treponema pallidum, the "pox" is transmitted between adults via any type of sex (oral, genital, anal). It can also affect a fetus during pregnancy. Initially the skin breaks down at the site of contact, an ulcer known as a chancre. This wet erosion is remarkably pain-free (unlike most reviews of "The Libertine"). Untreated, the infection then spreads throughout the body, causing a wide-spread rash, which certainly makes it harder to get a hookup. Then the infection can go into hiding, causing damage to the nerves, heart, and brain years later.

We are not implying that the swashbuckling star actually carries this bothersome bacteria. While syphilis reared its annoying head with a mini-epidemic in 2005, it remains susceptible to good old penicillin. Prior to antibiotics, derms spent so much of their day attempting to diagnose and minimize the myriad skin problems of this STD, the profession was actually called syphilology. How would you like to type an appointment to the syphilologist into your PDA? Mercury and arsenic were two standard treatments. And people complain about modern health care!

So dermatologists have moved from clearing the pox, to treating with Botox. To paraphrase a certain verbally challenged sitting president, "You're doing a heck of a job, Dermie."

Runner up, Best Argument for Antibiotics:

Oliver Platt's faux rosacea in "Casanova"
Though not strictly due to bacteria, rosacea responds to antibiotic treatments.

© 1996-2008 Vail Reese M.D.

Dr. Reese's office