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Monday, 8 August 2016

Tuberculosis born out of fire! Is it?

Image Source: The Atlantic

Thousands of years ago cave men started using fire for light, cooking foods or keeping themselves warm. So where there is fire there is smoke, and smoke leading to often cough. In the flamed airways there are some microbes in the soil takes the hold by changing and evolving. This is according to Rebecca Chisholm and Mark Tanaka, the biologists from University of New South Wales leading the possible history of oldest human disease – tuberculosis.

The agent is Mycobacterium tuberculosis and the disease was formally known as consumption has been reported to plague people for tens of thousands of years. Even some scars of infection linger on mummies. Today it is known to kill 1.5 million people each year more than other deadlier dieases.

The most important note is that humans were the first to get infected with tuberculosis and known to transfer this infection to animals like cows, rodents, etc. So how it came and hit us? M. tuberculosis comes from the lineage of microbes called mycobacteria which lives in soil and water. They were harmless and sometimes become opportunistic.

“It has to evolve to become transmissible between people,” reasons Tanaka. “That can be a really slow process if it doesn’t infect people very often. So maybe there’s a factor that accelerates this process, that gives the bacterium multiple chances to evolve.” – as reported to The Atlantic.
“Fire is a pretty good candidate,” he added. When one inhales the particles in smoke can lead to respiratory dieases and prevent the immune system to clear away the accumulated microbes. As we know fire brings people together and that might also be the chance for the bacterium for getting in touch to new hosts.

For now, this is just a hypothesis. But it’s “really interesting and thought-provoking”, says Caitlin Pepperell, from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who studies the evolution of human disease. “It’s plausible because smoke inhalation is so damaging to the lung’s innate immune system—our first line of defense against tuberculosis. Perhaps the bacteria that breached this defense had an easier time of it from that point on. Smoke inhalation also increases coughing and could enhance TB transmission.”


Source: The Atlantic
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