Medieval Historians Taking Genomics into Account

At the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo (Kzoo) last month, I couldn't help feeling that we have reached a turning point. I went to four sessions that engaged in genomics, human and/or bacterial, in some way. Granted, these are a tiny proportion of the 500+ sessions offered, but I have learned that if you... Continue Reading →

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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 →

Western Iranian Plague Foci Still Active, 2011-2012

In a letter in this month's Emerging Infectious Diseases, an Iranian and French team of epidemiologists report that the old plague focus in western Iran bordering Kurdistan is still active. Between 1947 and 1966 there were nine human plague epidemics causing 156 human deaths.  The last recorded human case occurred in 1966 and in animals... Continue Reading →

Asymptomatic Plague: Qinghai, China, 2005

Now that we know the Tibet-Qinghai plateau region is where Yersinia pestis originated and the region where subsequent pandemics arose, I think its time to look more closely at regional outbreaks and case studies. In this region, the marmot (Marmota himalayana) is the primary reservoir for Yersinia pestis. This large communal burrowing rodent is hunted by local... Continue Reading →

The Landscape of Super-Spreading

Super-spreading individuals and disease hot spots have been known for over a century, but rarely have they been considered together. Sara Paull and colleagues [1] have pulled together all of the recent work the ecology of disease hot spots and transmission heterogeneity (super spreading) to explore the continuum between individual transmission heterogeneity and the landscape... Continue Reading →

Leptin: Linking Malnutrition and Vulnerability to Infection

The correlation between malnutrition and vulnerability to infection has been well established (discussed previously here). While the immune dysfunction could be characterized it was not until the last 10-15 years that an exact mechanism began to resolve. It all began with the discovery of a new hormone called leptin from an unexpected place, adipose tissue... Continue Reading →

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