Scientists Finally Pinpoint the Pathogen That Caused the Irish Potato Famine
For nearly 150 years, starting in the late 17th century, millions of people living in Ireland subsisted largely off one crop: the potato. Then, in 1845, farmers noticed that their potato plants’ leaves were covered in mysterious dark splotches. When they pulled potatoes from the ground, most were shrunken, mushy and inedible. The blight spread alarmingly quickly, cutting yields from that year’s harvest in half. By 1846, harvest from potato farms had dropped to one quarter of its original size.
The disease—along with a political system that required Ireland to export large amounts of corn, dairy and meat to England—led to widespread famine, and nearly all of the few potatoes available were eaten, causing shortages of seed potatoes that ensured starvation would continue for nearly a decade. Ultimately, over one million people died, and another million emigrated to escape the disaster, causing Ireland’s population to fall by roughly 25 percent; the island has still not reached its pre-famine population levels today. Read more.
unlike viruses, Prions reproduce without genes.
a prion is an infectious entity and pathogen. proteins, as you may know (or not), are made of chains of amino-acids. composition dictates how these chains bend and curl, and form dictates function. now, a prion is a mal-formed protein, which causes other, similar proteins similarly denature: thus “reproducing”. they do this without DNA or other reproductive structures.
a common example of a prion infection is mad cow disease, and all prion diseases have similar prognosis: affecting the nervous system and being fatal.
I am the original, the first, the source. But that’s more what I became, not what I was.
When they first found me I was like millions of others, a broken man dying of HIV. They offered me a solution, a potential experimental cure. So I agreed, happily. I endured the prodding, hell I welcomed the injections. I was desperate for life.
They dubbed me a genetic marvel, I was acceptable for their cure. Had I not been so eager, I might have noticed the shadiness. I might have seen the false smiles plastered on the doctors faces. I could have realised that their cheerful words masked dark thoughts. I should have known their cure was just a repurposed virus.
But I did not. I eagerly took their “cure”. Within a week my body was not my own. I had traded one death sentence for another. You have no idea what it was like, the virus took control. The horror I felt, trapped within my own mind, fully aware but incapable of control. Screaming as my body committed atrocities.
They quickly realised that they could not keep my hunger satisfied. The virus was insatiable, their food did nothing to stop it. But then, the faithful day came, a chirpy young nurse came a little too close… and… and I devoured her. Without remorse. I was a prisoner in my own mind while my body was a monster.
But while I was a monster, she became something much worse. During the autopsy she awoke from her death slumber. The pathogen raged in her body. She tore the medical staff apart. Crimson arcs of blood sailing through the air where she cut them down. But once they were all dead, it became clear that her hunger was still not sated. So she set her eyes on the world.
This was the start of the end. I was Patient Zero, the original. The curse in my blood caused all of this. The pathogen I set loose caused the world to burn. If you’re reading this, I’m so sorry.
Chip Allows Fast, Reliable Identification of Pathogens
Univ. of Toronto researchers have created an electronic chip that can analyze blood and other clinical samples for infectious bacteria with record-breaking speed.
Life-threatening bacterial infections cause tens of thousands of deaths every year in North America but current methods of culturing bacteria in the lab can take days to report the specific source of the infection, and even longer to pinpoint the right antibiotic that will clear the infection.
The new technology, reported in the journal Nature Communications, can identify the pathogen in a matter of minutes, and looks for many different bacteria and drug resistance markers in parallel, allowing rapid and specific identification of infectious agents.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2013/06/chip-allows-fast-reliable-identification-pathogens