Contagion and Pestilence in Isidore of Seville’s Etymologies

Before Isidore of Seville became the patron saint of the internet, he was known for over a thousand years as a font of knowledge.  Isidore was not an innovator; he was a master of synthesis. It is through Isidore that we have an orderly account of the learned knowledge of the Late Roman world.  He... Continue Reading →

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Demystifying Scientific Authorship

Over the last few months, I've been talking quite a bit with historians. Many of them are starting to read more biology papers; some are perplexed by the format and brevity. So, I plan on occasionally writing posts that I hope will help non-science folks and students cope with science literature. A recent question:  how... 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 →

What makes a Super-Spreader?

Parameters that should be theoretically equal often aren't so in the real world. Ideally everyone should have the same potential to transmit an infection during a given outbreak, but it has long been observed that this isn't true. Super-spreaders play an extraordinary role in driving outbreaks of infectious disease. A super-spreader is a person who... Continue Reading →

Historic Meanings of “Cholera”

Today the term cholera is restricted to suspected infections caused by Vibrio cholerae, sometimes called Asiatic cholera. Vibrio cholerae produces a very characteristic watery diarrhea sometimes described as 'rice water'. This narrow definition wasn't always so. Since antiquity, cholera could refer to any diarrhea or dysentery. The term cholera comes from the Greek word cholē... Continue Reading →

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