Deadly Companions: How Microbes Shaped Our History

Deadly Companions: How Microbes Shaped Our History

Dorothy H. Crawford

Language: English

Pages: 272

ISBN: 0199561443

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Combining tales of devastating epidemics with accessible science and fascinating history, Deadly Companions reveals how closely microbes have evolved with us over the millennia, shaping human civilization through infection, disease, and deadly pandemic. Beginning with a dramatic account of the SARS pandemic at the start of the 21st century, Dorothy Crawford takes us back in time to follow the interlinked history of microbes and humanity, offering an up-to-date look at ancient plagues and epidemics, and identifying key changes in the way humans have lived--such as our move from hunter-gatherer to farmer to city-dweller--which made us ever more vulnerable to microbe attack. Showing that how we live our lives today--with increased crowding and air travel--puts us once again at risk, Crawford asks whether we might ever conquer microbes completely. Among the possible answers, one thing becomes clear: that for generations to come, our deadly companions will continue to influence our lives.

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microbial inheritance Unlike P. ovale, which cannot survive outside the tropics, P. malariae can spread in temperate as well as tropical and subtropical regions. And since this parasite can live in its host for a lifetime it is certainly the best adapted for survival in sparse, mobile hunter-gatherer bands. However, the question of whether malaria really caused major problems to hunter-gatherer bands still remains unanswered, and evidence from modern African hunter-gatherers is of little help.

newspaper by Mr Thomas Campbell Foster, who visited Ireland in 1845, outlined the annual budget of a typical labourer’s family:4 Income: £3 18s. from wages (6p a day), £4 0s. from sale of pig Annual rent: £5 0s. (£2 10s. for cottage, £2 10s. for conacer) Balance left to spend on clothes, candles, meal, drink, tools etc: £2 18s. It is plain that if the potato crop failed the family starved. To the Irish labourer their conacer was their lifeline and they would not give it up at any price. The

clothe so many.’ The workhouses were woefully ill equipped to deal with the scale of the crisis and if they were full there was nothing to do but wait outside for an inmate to die. Some landlords could hardly wait for the cottiers to abandon their Wlthy homes before demolishing them and repossessing the land, but of course there were good landlords as well as bad. Lord Kildare of Donegal for example cancelled his tenants’ rents for the year 1845, and others helped their tenants to emigrate.10 In

attracted quite a following, and after her death she was worshipped locally as the goddess of smallpox. The Indian technique used needles dipped in pus taken from smallpox pustules to puncture the skin at several sites on the upper arm or forehead, and the small wounds were then covered with a paste made from boiled rice. As trade routes from India opened up, this practice spread to South-West Asia and into parts of central Europe and Africa, reaching Constantinople towards the end of the

super-spreaders (like the doctor at the Metropole Hotel in Hong Kong) and fast international air travel. It is interesting to imagine how the virus would have fared if it had emerged hundreds of years ago before we had any knowledge of how to stop it spreading. Would it have remained a major international killer like smallpox or would it have evolved into a milder form and joined the band of viruses that cause Xu-like illnesses today? Host Resistence The battle between humans and microbes has

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