DNA Of The Plague

It appears scientists have found the DNA of bacterium left behind by London's great Plague in the 1660's. While it appears it is not likely to be active, hopefully they keep the bacterium under close wraps. The scientific find and historical nature make this very interesting to learn from. More of the story here.

The Plague

Interesting theory. Scientists now believe that the plague to hit Europe in the Middle Ages was more spread due to gerbils than due to rats moving from trade routes to on ships.

"What we are suggesting is that it was gerbils in Central Asia and the bacterium in gerbils that eventually came to Europe," Stenseth says. The scientists used climate records to check their theory, and they found a tentative link. When the climate in Asia was good, gerbils are thought to have thrived; but when it went bad, the population crashed. And about 15 years after each boom and bust, a plague outbreak erupted in Europe. The theory is that fleas carrying plague jumped from dead gerbils to pack animals and human traders, who then brought it to European cities. The research team's results appear in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More here.

Surviving Ebola

What helps some people be able to resist and/or survive Ebola? Knowing some of the background of this type of immunity would be useful. More information found here.
Ebola virus particles on a cell’s surface.....


“People who survive Ebola can lead normal lives post-recovery, though occasionally they can suffer inflammatory conditions of the joints afterwards, according to CBS. Recovery times can vary, and so can the amount of time it takes for the virus to clear out of the system. The World Health Organization found that the virus can reside in semen for up to seven weeks after recovery. Survivors are generally assumed to be immune to the particular strain they are infected by, and are able to help tend to others infected with the same strain. What isn't clear is whether or not a person is immune to other strains of Ebola, or if their immunity will last.

As with most viral infections, patients who recover from Ebola end up with Ebola-fighting antibodies in their blood, making their blood a valuable (if controversial) treatment option for others who catch the infection. Kent Brantly, one of the most recognizable Ebola survivors, has donated more than a gallon of his blood to other patients. The plasma of his blood, which contains the antibodies, is separated out from the red blood cells, creating what’s known as a convalescent serum, which can then be given to a patient as a transfusion. The hope is that the antibodies in the serum will boost the patient’s immune response, attacking the virus, and allowing the body to recover.”


More Hot Zone

Richard Preston is the author of the book I mentioned a few days ago, “The Hot Zone”. He has an article today in The New Yorker called, “The Ebola Wars”. He has such an interesting way of writing about diseases to bring it all down to the feeling it is right in front of you waiting to be touched (or not touched in this case). I wish we could have him communicate the real life scenario than the basic hacks from the government who make you feel like they just lie to you or want to talk down to a person. For his take on the current Ebola situation in west Africa, go here.

The most dangerous outbreak of an emerging infectious disease since the appearance of H.I.V., in the early nineteen-eighties, seems to have begun on December 6, 2013, in the village of Meliandou, in Guinea, in West Africa, with the death of a two-year-old boy who was suffering from diarrhea and a fever. We now know that he was infected with Ebola virus. The virus is a parasite that lives, normally, in some as yet unidentified creature in the ecosystems of equatorial Africa. This creature is the natural host of Ebola; it could be a type of fruit bat, or some small animal that lives on the body of a bat—possibly a bloodsucking insect, a tick, or a mite.

Before now, Ebola had caused a number of small, vicious outbreaks in central and eastern Africa. Doctors and other health workers were able to control the outbreaks quickly, and a belief developed in the medical and scientific communities that Ebola was not much of a threat. The virus is spread only through direct contact with blood and bodily fluids, and it didn’t seem to be mutating in any significant way.”

Ebola and The Hot Zone

We have been going through a serious period over the past 2 weeks where a traveler from Liberia brought an Ebola infection with him and transmitted it to two nurses treating him. Troubling and I don’t feel our medical authorities have been handling the situation with due caution and appropriate controls. Too much minimizing and I feel that they forget the serious concerns discussed in the book, The Hot Zone, from the 1990s where an outbreak in monkeys near Washington D.C. was considered a major concern. I talked with two veterinarians featured in that book and this is a level 4 virus in how they handle it. High mortality and one we don’t want in the population. Here are some facts coming in about this clade of Ebola virus and how to deal with it.

Typhoid Mary Today

Scientists appear to have found how Typhoid Mary was able to spread typhoid as a carrier. Another medical mystery seems to have found an answer.

When Typhoid Mary died in 1938, in medical exile on a tiny New York island, she took untold numbers of Salmonella typhi to her grave. No one knew how the bacteria managed to thrive and not kill her.

A team of microbiologists from Stanford University and UC San Francisco has found a tantalizing clue: a bacterium strain similar to the one responsible for "healthy" carriers such as Typhoid Mary shows an ability to hack the metabolism of the cells sent out to defend from infection and heal trauma.

Read the story here.
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