Who Gave Pinta to the Santa Maria?: Torrid Diseases in a Temperate World

Who Gave Pinta to the Santa Maria?: Torrid Diseases in a Temperate World

Robert S. Desowitz

Language: English

Pages: 256

ISBN: 0393040844

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Who Gave Pinta to the Santa Maria?: Torrid Diseases in a Temperate World

Robert S. Desowitz

Language: English

Pages: 256

ISBN: 0393040844

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


An instructive, often humorous, chronicle of how the worms and germs of the tropical world have made and are making their way north. We live in a fool's paradise, comforted, despite all evidence to the contrary, that we are insulated from the scourging microbial and parasitic diseases of the tropics. Yet past and present history reveals that many of the "classic" tropical diseases are, in reality, temperate too yellow fever in Philadelphia, the Ebola virus in Maryland and Virginia, and the Mexican pig tapeworm in Brooklyn. Who Gave Pinta to the Santa Maria? traces the origin of these extraordinary, but by no means isolated, cases. Did the crew of the Santa Maria bring syphilis (Pinta) back from the New World? Did Charles Darwin suffer a protracted illness and eventually die from the bite of an assassin bug while traveling through Argentina? Writing with enthusiasm and from wide medical experience, Dr. Robert Desowitz is a veritable Sherlock Holmes of parasites and pathogens. Spanning a human history of over 50,000 years, Who Gave Pinta to the Santa Maria? also looks ahead to the constant dangers of microbial diseases of unprecedented savagery"Doomsday bugs" creeping into the industrialized world.

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cleaning up the city. And if the elected officials were unable to impose civic hygiene, the business community would do so. The merchants of New Orleans formed their own Auxiliary Sanitary Association whose candid slogan was Public Health is Public Wealth. Large amounts of private money went to cleanup projects—collecting garbage, sweeping streets, and so on—but yellow fever returned, again and again, unabated. The social mischief of the contagion theory is that if filth causes disease, yellow

immigrants coming to our shores at that time the Irish were most discriminated against—reviled for their poverty, feared for their Catholicism. It was “common knowledge” that the “dirty Irish” were the source of yellow fever; in 1855, at the apogee of an outbreak in Norfolk, Virginia, a mob burned the Irish ghetto. New Orleans, vortex of yellow fever in the South, contained too few Irish to make them the accused. But it did have lots of African Americans. The African Americans were particularly

that a modified pathogen could induce resistance to a disease. In this case it was experimental chickens and the fowl cholera bacteria. It was 1887. Almost one hundred years earlier Jenner did much the same thing with cowpox and smallpox in his experimental children. The rabies organism couldn’t be grown in vitro. It couldn’t even be seen. But Pasteur was convinced that it was there, lurking in the experimentally infected rabbit’s nervous system, and that à la chicken cholera, he could induce

infection. Mexico was to be the end of the age of innocence; yellow fever would emerge as a much more complex and formidable disease than imagined by Gorgas. But before the biological facts became clear, there was a muddying of the pathogen. In 1901 the Walter Reed group filtered the serum of an infected patient through a ceramic sieve whose porosity was so minuscule that no known microorganism could pass through it; and yet, when the filtrate of that serum was inoculated into two volunteers,

the Valdivian pots. The Kyushu people of the middle Jomon period were gatherers of the tidal flats and fishers of the deeper offshore waters. Meggars and Evans believe that a canoe or canoes swept too far out to sea by inclement weather would have been carried by the strong west-to-east current whose path leads to the Ecuadoran coast. It would have been a grueling voyage, but the hardy neolithic Japanese are thought capable of surviving it. It would also have been a one-way trip; there is no

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