The Microbial Anthropocene

Over the last decade or so, geologists and ecologists have begun to talk about planet earth entering a new geologic period called the Anthropocene, defined as the period when humans became the driving force of change on planet Earth. Debates continue on when the Anthropocene begins; sometime in the late 18th century when the industrial... 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 →

An Anniversary year for Natural Disasters: 1815, 1665, and 1315

There are major natural disasters every year. In the last year alone we have had the major earthquake in Nepal just in the last couple days and a historic epidemic of Ebola. It's too soon to tell how these latest disasters will seen by history and effect historical interpretations. This year there are three natural... Continue Reading →

Expanding the Historical Plague Paradigm

When the first complete genomic sequence of Yersinia pestis was published on October 4, 2001 the world was naturally focused elsewhere, on anthrax bioterrorism -- the Amerithrax incident was then in its second week-- and the September 11 attacks were just over three weeks old. As the world redeveloped bioterrorism assessments and plans, plague was... 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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