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23341.  Sun Aug 28, 2005 10:55 am Reply with quote

Leprosy is now called Hansen's Disease and since the 1940s has been treatable with antibiotics. It was never as infectious as people believed (in medieval times it was thought that leprosy could be spread by the glance of a leper, or an unseen leper standing upwind of you); the infection seems to be spread in respiratory droplets, but the transmission rate is very low and most people (90%) seem to be naturally immune. Pope John Paul II kissed a number of lepers in order to publicise this fact.

Contrary to popular belief, Hansen's disease does not cause rotting of the flesh, although extremities may become numb due to nerve damage and this may lead to minor infected wounds going unnoticed until permanent damage has occurred.

The term is applied in the Bible to a wide range of skin diseases other than Hansen's.

Other than humans, the only animals known to be susceptible to leprosy are armadilloes and mice (on their footpads).

The Japanese practised total quarantine until 1996, although there was no medical justification for the policy, and for a period of 30 years up to at least the 1950s, the babies of hundreds of Japanese leprosy patients held in sanatoriums were deliberately killed by medical staff.

23396.  Tue Aug 30, 2005 6:32 am Reply with quote

The Roman Emperor Tiberius (AD14-37) issued a decree banning kissing, because it was believed to be responsible for the spread of an unpleasant fungoid disease called mentagra, which disfigured the faces and bodies of Roman nobles.,,592-1647622,00.html

23694.  Mon Sep 05, 2005 7:00 am Reply with quote

Parasites brainwash grasshoppers into death dive
The parasitic Nematomorph hairworm (Spinochordodes tellinii) develops inside land-dwelling grasshoppers and crickets until the time comes for the worm to transform into an aquatic adult. Somehow mature hairworms brainwash their hosts into behaving in way they never usually would – causing them to seek out and plunge into water.

Once in the water the mature hairworms – which are three to four times longer that their hosts when extended – emerge and swim away to find a mate, leaving their host dead or dying in the water.
Cunning buggers. Sort of like the way that flu makes humans sneeze, I gather, although that doesn't attack the brain - it just makes the nose release lots of goo.

S: New Scientist

23748.  Tue Sep 06, 2005 6:26 am Reply with quote

post 20778

About the Microphallus bacteria which has caused many a perwinkle to commit suicide.

24237.  Thu Sep 15, 2005 5:50 pm Reply with quote

Particularly enlightening leprosy post, Flash. Thank you.

24997.  Tue Sep 27, 2005 3:34 am Reply with quote

Herodotus gives an account of the Babylonian method of treating disease:
There were no doctors in Babylon; invalids were carried out into the street, and anyone who chanced to come by would offer advice upon their complaints, drawn either from personal experience or from observation of similar complaints in others. No one was allowed to pass a sick person in silence; duty required that he should ask what ailed him. The tedium of such conversations can well be imagined, but the Babylonians apparently enjoyed them.
The World of Herodotus by Aubrey de Selincourt, p213.

Frederick The Monk
25188.  Wed Sep 28, 2005 3:24 pm Reply with quote

There were no doctors in Babylon; i

So how come there are Sumerians and Akkadian words for 'doctor'?

25194.  Wed Sep 28, 2005 3:35 pm Reply with quote

The Sumerians also invented the PhD.

25198.  Wed Sep 28, 2005 3:54 pm Reply with quote

Well, I didn't write the arsing quote, but I would guess that the answer is that Sumerian wasn't spoken in Babylon, and although Akkadian was spoken in Babylon it was also spoken in Nineveh where they may have had a full nationalised health service and weekly editions of House for all I know.

25199.  Wed Sep 28, 2005 4:05 pm Reply with quote

Anyway, since you badger me so, I have now gone to the original (the original translation, that is) and in my Penguin Classics version of The Histories sure enough it says on p 121 of the Penguin (Book 1, 199 of the original):
They have no doctors
Only trouble is the translation is by this same de Selincourt fellow, so he may be playing an elaborate hoax on us all.

But I'm glad I checked because there's an additional factoid for the dowries thread which I shall now post there.

Frederick The Monk
25204.  Wed Sep 28, 2005 5:11 pm Reply with quote

Never trust Herodotus - I lent him a fiver once you know...

25205.  Wed Sep 28, 2005 5:13 pm Reply with quote

He does strike me as being a bit of a tourist. And you know what fun the natives have telling them porkies!

Frederick The Monk
25207.  Wed Sep 28, 2005 5:18 pm Reply with quote

Well you do wonder - particularly when he was in Egypt.

what's that?

-It's a pyramid.

Where did it come from?

-My dad made it. Do you want to buy it?

28203.  Mon Oct 24, 2005 6:39 pm Reply with quote

I've just discovered how the human immune system works and I think it's incredibly interesting how every pathogen has a specific antigen that your body has to recognise, and it defends against all the antigens by generating random antibodies.

The immune system is so random.

I knew A-Level biology would come in handy at some point.

34014.  Thu Nov 24, 2005 6:20 am Reply with quote

I asked one of the QI founding members, Irvine Loudon, who is at the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine about historical investigations into weather and disease. Here's are some QI bits from his reply

Since the time of ancient Greek medicine, the role of seasonality in disease has been recognised. By the eighteenth century it was often mentioned because it was known that some diseases such as influenza and what we now know as streptococcal disease was more common in the late winter and early spring than at other times of the year. Conversely, there were many common diseases – such as tuberculosis, typhoid and typhus which were the three most common causes of death in adults before 1850 – showed no signs of seasonality. No one – or very few – would have believed that the weather alone was the cause, or even the main cause of seasonal illnesses, but most believed that weather played an important part in determining the prevalence of epidemics and rates of certain illnesses.

In fact during the 18th and first half of the 19th century, doctors were very interested in the role of what they called the ‘epidemic constitution’. The ‘epidemic constitution’ consisted of several factors. The weather in general first of all. But linked to the weather was the effect of local features on the quality of the air. Thus high open dry countryside was ‘good’ and low marshy areas and industrial areas were bad regardless of the time of year. ‘Goodness’ and ‘badness’ in these respects were caused by what was thought of as the quality of the air, but also and most importantly the nature of the soil which by itself could be a causative factor in the prevalence of illness. There was certainly truth in this, because malaria was endemic in the UK until the 1920s, and it was well known that malaria (under the name of intermittent fever) was closely associated with marshy low-lying areas such as East Anglia. This, of course, was long before the role of the mosquito in malaria.

There is a nice story about weather and illness which is most instructive. In Scott’s expedition to the South Pole, in spite of exposure to the most awful weather you can imagine, no one had a cold or flu or flu-like illness until the end of the expedition when the ship arrived to take the survivors home. As soon as the ship arrived, bringing with it some people who were suffering from colds, the surviving members of the expedition promptly went down with colds and sore throats. Colds are not caused by being cold but by exposure to people that are harbouring the viruses associated with colds.


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