Ancient Plague Strains in Kyrgyzstan

The process of mapping ancient Yersinia pestis (plague) strains along the central Asian mountain chain, or greater Himalayas continues. Up to now, most of the living ancient strains have been mapped in Tibet/western China and a few scattered other places (Cui et al, 2010).  Russian scholars have a released data on mapped ancient strains of Yersinia... Continue Reading →

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War as a Driver in Tuberculosis Evolution

by Michelle Ziegler Russia has been all over the news lately. Beyond our recent election, increased Russian activity on the world stage has public health consequences for Europe and farther afield. It has been known for a long time that post-Soviet Russia had and continues to have serious public health problems. One of their particular... Continue Reading →

Plague Dialogues: Monica Green and Boris Schmid on Plague Phylogeny (I)

In keeping with this blog's goal to be a meeting ground for interdisciplinary discussions, I'll be hosting a series of dialogues between scholars in the humanities and sciences. If you would like to be involved in one of these dialogues, please use the contact form on the about page. On behalf of today's participants, I... Continue Reading →

Keeping Bronze Age Yersinia pestis in Perspective

by Michelle Ziegler The latest plague news to splash across headlines is the discovery of Yersinia pestis aDNA in seven Bronze Age remains from Eurasia.  The most important findings in this new study are not anthropological; they are evolutionary. This paper allows us to drop a couple more evolutionary mile markers. Finding  7% of the... Continue Reading →

An Unnatural History of Emerging Infections

Ron Barrett and George Armelagos. An Unnatural History of Emerging Infections. Oxford University Press, 2013 (e-book) This is not a traditional review. In keeping with this blog's function as my shared file cabinet, this post will be something like a précis /notes with a few of  my comments in italics. Medical anthropologists Ron Barrett and George Aremelagos... Continue Reading →

Microbial Forensics of a Natural Pneumonic Plague Outbreak

For bioterrorism agents like Yersinia pestis it is necessary to identify the strain and its source specifically enough for forensic use. Categorizing an epidemic isolate and tracing its source is always important for public health measures, but the level of precision is far higher for legal uses. Developing forensic techniques to characterize and parse very... Continue Reading →

Antibiotic Resistance, Agriculture, and the Plague

Antibiotics have ended the uncontrollable outbreaks of plague in humans that stalked our ancestors. Today, outbreaks are usually snuffed out after a couple of cases with antibiotic treatment of patients, prophylactic treatment of contacts and vector control. Our greatest risks from plague today are a pneumonic plague outbreak/attack and the emergence of antibiotic resistance. Beginning... Continue Reading →

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