Archive for July 16th, 2008

TB or not TB, that is congestion

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

Once again, I am compelled to apologize for the title. I just couldn’t help myself. If it’s any consolation, there’s more to the doggerel that I’ve spared you (ie, it didn’t fit in the title field).

The story today is about scientists examining 6000-year-old bones excavated from Jericho decades ago to trace the evolution of tuberculosis. The bones show extensive evidence of TB infection, and given Jericho’s advanced age, some of them might yield clues to the early transmission of the disease.

Examining human and animal bones will give the researchers insight into the first people living in a crowded situation and how they developed crowd diseases; the nature of human-animal interaction; the MTB strains that were present in founder populations, the changes in the DNA of both microbes and people and how those changes affected the disease’s development.

“We may have an opportunity to identify the real bugs that harmed humankind,” said Dr. Andreas Nerlich of Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich. The bones will be tested for tuberculosis, leprosy, leishmania and malaria, however, the primary focus in the first funding period will be mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC).

The most significant results, the researchers say, will come from comparing data for humans and corresponding animal remains. Initial results already contained one surprise, Nerlich said. “We did not find mycobacterium bovis. We tend to think that [diseases] come from cows to humans, but it could have been the other way around.”

Spigelman adds that Atlit Yam is one of the first villages in which a large number of cow bones were found, indicating domestication of the animal. “And yet the TB strain is modern TB and not bovis. So the theory is that we gave TB to the cows,” he said.

Oh man, we really don’t need this information getting out. If the cows hear about it they will make us pay. And after they gave us cowpox to keep us safe from the far meaner pox. There will be bovine hell to pay.

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