There have been many articles recently about the end of time for antibiotics. All very well but how about those bacteria that have been coming at us, lances tilted, all through time. Bacteria has the ability to remain infectious for very long periods. Take Anthrax, Bacillus anthracis, as an example. There are areas in the south of England where it is illegal to dig due to mass graves of military horses that contracted the disease (most during WWI). Even today the spores of the bacterium are still viable. I used to live near a military town and I remember a friend of mine when I was younger telling me about one of those sites nearby – he used to dig for old bottles and that sort of tat. I’ve never forgotten that piece of information.
The article that spawned this blog talks about the fact that Leprosy, Mycobacterium leprae, can be shown to be between 10 and 20 million years old, the latest versions having genes that can be followed backwards through time, the ultimate time journey. Not only that but maybe we ought to be grateful for the fact that its evolution turned off about 40% of the genes in its genome pool – what would it have been otherwise? There are still hundreds of thousands of new cases of Leprosy annually, a tragic number considering it is treatable.
The really interesting thing is that Leprosy has always been very specific to humans (apart from some remote species of armadillo – poor sod). Of the more than 400 strains found so far, they all have a common genome pool suggesting it was with us before we migrated out of Africa over 100,000 years ago.
In a way, from an artistic point of view or course, I am pleased with this hypothesis. It gels quite nicely with my book, Return Of A King: A Zombie Chronicle. In it I use the longevity of disease to suggest that zombie-ism has been with us a very long time. In the upcoming sequel, due in about a month’s time, I have another suggestion as to origin. No spoilers here though but what I can say is, New York watch out!
Zombie books by David K Roberts:
Return Of A King: A Zombie Chronicle
The Common Cold: A Zombie Chronicle
The Common Cold: A Zombie Chronicle – Cabin Fever (Sequel)
The news article that influenced this blog: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2568579/Leprosy-oldest-disease-humans-Bacteria-existed-MILLIONS-years-infected-ancestors-claims-study.html