Thursday, October 18, 2007

"Deadly Companions"

Dorothy H. Crawford is Robert Irvine Professor of Medical Microbiology at the University of Edinburgh.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her forthcoming book, Deadly Companions: How Microbes Shaped Our History, and reported the following:
The story of human history has been inextricably entwined with the story of microbes. They have evolved and spread amongst us, shaping our culture through infection, disease and deadly pandemics. At the same time, our changing human culture has itself influenced the evolutionary paths of microbes. Deadly Companions shows that one cannot be understood without the other.

Beginning with the dramatic story of the SARS pandemic at the start of the 21st century, the book then follows the interlinked history of man and microbes taking an up-to-date look at ancient plagues, and exploring how changes in the way humans lived throughout history made us vulnerable to microbe attack. As we moved from hunter-gatherer to farmers to city dwellers microbes like malaria and smallpox moved with us, changing and evolving to spread between us with ever more efficiency. Trade and conquest brought new opportunities to spread, and with the power to decimate populations microbes have shaped the course of history.

On page 69 of Deadly Companions (at right; click to enlarge) we find the schistosome. This deadly parasite is carried by water snails and infects humans wading, washing or swimming in infected waters. The microbe probably first infected Egyptians in the Nile valley when they took up irrigation farming around 6000BC. Back then it must have caused thousands of deaths from schistosomiasis, and this is still a major problem in the area today.
Learn more about Deadly Companions at the Oxford University Press website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue