AIDS: ‘Patient Zero’ Exonerated

A combination of historical and genetic research reveals the error and hype that led to the coining of the term ‘Patient Zero’ and the blaming of one man for the spread of HIV across North America.


A combination of historical and genetic research reveals the error and hype that led to the coining of the term ‘Patient Zero’ and the blaming of one man for the spread of HIV across North America.

A new study proves that a flight attendant who became notorious as the human epicentre of the US AIDS crisis of the 1980s — and the first person to be labeled the ‘Patient Zero’ of any epidemic — was simply one of many thousands infected in the years before HIV was recognized.


Research by a historian from the University of Cambridge and the genetic testing of decades-old blood samples by a team of US scientists has demonstrated that Gaétan Dugas, a French-Canadian gay man posthumously blamed by the media for spreading HIV across North America, was not the epidemic’s ‘Patient Zero’.unknown-1

‘Casting’ an epidemic

The journalist Randy Shilts would use the LA cluster study as an important thread in his bestselling book on the AIDS crisis, And the Band Played On. During the book’s research, he became fascinated by the study’s ‘Patient 0’.unknown

Motivated to find out more about this man, Shilts eventually learned his name in 1986. The journalist tracked down his friends and colleagues for interviews, and, as “Patient Zero,” made him one of the more memorable villains in his book.

To call attention to the crisis, Shilts set out to “humanise the disease,” says McKay, who discovered that an early outline for the book actually listed ‘The Epidemic’ itself among the cast of characters. “To Shilts, Dugas as Patient Zero came to represent the disease itself.”

The 1982 study had initially suggested to investigators that the period between infection and the appearance of AIDS symptoms might be several months. By the time Shilts’s book was published in 1987, however, it was known that an infected individual might not display symptoms for several years, and that the study was unlikely to have revealed a network of infection. Yet Shilts uncritically resurrected the story of the Los Angeles cluster study and its ‘Patient 0,’ with long-standing consequences.images-2

The journalist’s decision provoked immediate criticism from AIDS activists in lesbian and gay communities across North America and the UK. Some of their works of protest are cited in the Nature study, and explored in greater detail in McKay’s own forthcoming book and in a 2014 article he published in the Bulletin of the History of Medicine.

“In many ways, the historical evidence has been pointing to the fallacy of Patient Zero for decades,” explains McKay. “We now have additional phylogenetic evidence that helps to consolidate this position.”


Blaming ‘others’

Now, almost 30 years since Shilts’s book, analysis of the HIV-1 genome taken from Dugas’s 1983 blood sample, contextualised through McKay’s historical research, has shown that he was not even a base case for HIV strains at the time, and that a trail of error and hype led to his condemnation as the so-called Patient Zero.

The researchers say it may be naïve to expect Patient Zero’s legendary status, or the popular impulse to attribute blame for disease outbreaks, to ever disappear.

“Blaming ‘others’ — whether the foreign, the poor, or the wicked — has often served to establish a notional safe distance between the majority and groups or individuals identified as threats,” says McKay.

Source: AIDS: The making of the ‘Patient Zero’ myth — ScienceDaily

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How cats conquered the world (and a few Viking ships) : Nature News & Comment

Thousands of years before cats came to dominate Internet culture, they swept through ancient Eurasia and Africa carried by early farmers, ancient mariners and even Vikings, finds the first large-scale look at ancient-cat DNA.

display-963The study, presented at a conference on 15 September, sequenced DNA from more than 200 cats that lived between about 15,000 years ago and the eighteenth century ad.screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-2-13-35-amResearchers know little about cat domestication, and there is active debate over whether the house cat (Felis silvestris) is truly a domestic animal — that is, its behaviour and anatomy are clearly distinct from those of wild relatives. “We don’t know the history of ancient cats. We do not know their origin, we don’t know how their dispersal occurred,” says Eva-Maria Geigl, an evolutionary geneticist at the Institut Jacques Monod in She presented the study at the 7th International Symposium on Biomolecular Archaeology in Oxford, UK, along with colleagues Claudio Ottoni and Thierry Grange.

A 9,500-year-old human burial from Cyprus also contained the remains of a cat1. This suggests that the affiliation between people and felines dates at least as far back as the dawn of agriculture, which occurred in the nearby Fertile Crescent beginning around 12,000 years ago. prince-thutmose-catAncient Egyptians may have tamed wild cats some 6,000 years ago, and under later Egyptian dynasties, cats were mummified by the million. One of the few previous studies3 of ancient-cat genetics involved mitochondrial DNA (which, contrary to most nuclear DNA, is inherited through the maternal line only) for just three mummified Egyptian cats.

Feline travels

Geigl’s team built on those insights, but expanded the approach to a much larger scale. The researchers analysed mitochondrial DNA from the remains of 209 cats from more than 30  archaeological sites across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.s45_hiroshige_cat-crossing-to-eat The samples dated from the Mesolithic — the period just before the advent of agriculture, when humans lived as hunter–gatherers — up to the eighteenth century.Cat populations seem to have grown in two waves, the authors found. Middle Eastern wild cats with a particular mitochondrial lineage expanded with early farming communities to the eastern Mediterranean. Geigl suggests that grain stockpiles associated with these early farming communities attracted rodents, which in turn drew wild cats. ancient-animal-mummie_horo-4After seeing the benefit of having cats around, humans might have begun to tame these cats.Thousands of years later, cats descended from those in Egypt spread rapidly around Eurasia and Africa. A mitochondrial lineage common in Egyptian cat mummies from the end of the fourth century bc to the fourth century ad was also carried by cats in Bulgaria, Turkey and sub-Saharan Africa from around the same time. japanese-bakenekoSea-faring people probably kept cats to keep rodents in check, says Geigl, whose team also found cat remains with this maternal DNA lineage at a Viking site dating to between the eighth and eleventh century ad in northern Germany.screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-8-47-36-pm

Source: How cats conquered the world (and a few Viking ships) : Nature News & Comment

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Ancient antidepressants found in excavations in Istanbul – ARCHAEOLOGY

Excavations that have been conducted on Bathonea on the coasts of Küçükçekmece Lake in Istanbul’s Avcılar district have unearthed nearly 700 small ceramic or glass bottles containing antidepressant pills and heart disease drugs (from 620-640 CE),

“There were lots of pestles, mortars and a big cooker around these bottles. It seems that there was a drug production 
center here. We also found lots of medical tools and spatulas,” said Associate Professor Şengül Aydıngün, the head of the
Bathonea excavations.
“The interesting part is that there are some plants on this field where we are working in winter. These plants are the core 

of many drugs. The analysis of remnants in the bottles was made by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of
Turkey (TÜBİTAK). They got the formulas of two drugs; Methanone and Phenanthrene. One of them is an antidepressant
and the other is used in cases of heart diseases. The cores of these drugs were obtained from nearby plants. This is a very
good result for us,” she said.

Source: Ancient antidepressants found in excavations in Istanbul – ARCHAEOLOGY

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Discovered : The Oldest…

The opening months of 2016 have been filled with numerous discoveries that pushed back further into the shadows of the past our understanding of our ancestors and their technology.

In August I posted here about the 50,000 year-old Denisovan needle.information_items_45131.jpg

The Denisovans were highly skilled artisans. This jewelry is about 40,000 years old:inside_bracelet_reconstruction1.jpg

In London (where I’m headed tomorrow) they found in May the oldest handwritten documents in British history. Among the record-making finds:

  • The oldest handwritten document ever found in Britain, dated to A.D. 43-53, the earliest years of Roman rule in Britain
  • The earliest date recorded on a handwritten document in Britain — a tablet marked with Jan. 8, 57 (as we’d write it today)
  • The first reference to “London” — or Londinium, as it was then known — as a city name, from A.D. 65-80
  • Tablets that seem to have been used to practice the alphabet and numbers, possibly the first evidence for a school in Roman Britain

In February, they announced the discovery of world’s oldest dress in Egypt. The garment, which dates to around 3482 B.C., is known as the “Tarkhan Dress,” and now looks like a tattered and stained shirt. screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-11-32-09-pmWhen new, however, the linen dress would have looked fashionable even today, as researchers determined it featured a natural pale grey stripe with knife-pleated sleeves and bodice. Its hem is missing, so the original length of the dress is unknown.

A few days ago they announced the discovery of the oldest known tools found in the Western Hemisphere.

Brian Jennings holds a multi-tool thought to be roughly 15,800 years old.

Brian Jennings holds a multi-tool thought to be roughly 15,800 years old.

This discovery pushes back the history of the continent’s oldest inhabitants by about 1,800 years.

Also announced this past week was the discovery of the world’s oldest indigo-dyed fabric in Peru.

A George Washington University researcher has identified a 6,200-year-old indigo-blue fabric from Huaca, Peru, making it one of the oldest-known cotton textiles in the world and the oldest known textile decorated with indigo blue. Credit: Lauren Urana

A George Washington University researcher has identified a 6,200-year-old indigo-blue fabric from Huaca, Peru, making it one of the oldest-known cotton textiles in the world and the oldest known textile decorated with indigo blue. Photo: Lauren Urana

The discovery marks the earliest use of indigo as a dye, a technically challenging color to produce. According to Jeffrey Splitstoser, lead author of a paper on the discovery and assistant research professor of anthropology at the George Washington University, the finding speaks to the sophisticated  technology ancient Andean people developed 6,200 years ago.

“Some of the world’s most significant technological achievements were developed first in the New World,” said Dr. Splitstoser. “Many people, however, remain mostly unaware of the important technological contributions made by Native Americans, perhaps because so many of these technologies were replaced by European systems during the conquest. However, the fine fibers and sophisticated dyeing, spinning and weaving practices developed by ancient South Americans were quickly co-opted by Europeans.”

Two days before that announcement scientists revealed the discovery of the world’s oldest known snow-shoe.


Scientists in Italy’s Dolomite mountains unveiled what they believe to be the world’s oldest snowshoe.

Carbon-dating has shown that the rudimentary snow shoe, made of birch wood and twine, was made in the late Neolithic age, between 3,800 and 3,700 BC.

“It is the oldest snowshoe in the world so far discovered, dating to around 5,800 years ago,” scientists said in a statement.108318268_oldestsnowshoe-large_transrxqpxgvm58cjoubpwmonpzwu-kwrahvlajxy1texvlq


On Saturday scientist revealed the oldest known fish hooks which were found in Okinawa.Fishhooks_16x9_2.jpg

The early modern humans who lived on tiny Okinawa Island between mainland Japan and Taiwan nearly 30,000 years ago are the world’s oldest known anglers. Now, archaeologists have discovered the oldest known fishhooks in a limestone cave in the island’s interior, dating back nearly 23,000 years. The fishhooks, all carved from shells, were found in Sakitari Cave, which was occupied seasonally by fishermen taking advantage of the downstream migrations of crabs and freshwater snails.


I love stories like these that show our predecessors were much more technologically advanced at a much earlier time than scientists up until recently believed they were capable of.

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Stream Hundreds of Science Documentaries for $2.99/mo

For the first time in ages I intentionally clicked on an online ad and discovered this.screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-9-33-36-am

I don’t really need another rabbit hole but as I watch less and less TV stuff like this becomes increasingly attractive.
The first month is free and then it’s $2.99 a month. As soon as I get back from the UK (leave Mon 19Sep-return 3Oct) I’m 
going to subscribe.
Check out a few of the titles available now:
screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-9-36-03-am screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-9-36-21-am screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-9-35-40-am







Source: CuriosityStream

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8,000-year-old female figurine uncovered in central Turkey

catalhoyuk_-_neolithic_statuetteArchaeologists have uncovered a rare stone figurine of a woman dating back 8,000 years at a dig in Turkey’s central province of Konya that an expert says is one of only handful of statuettes of the era ever found in one piece.

Stanford University Professor Ian Hodder told The Associated Press in an email that the 17-cm (7-inch) figurine, found at the Catalhoyuk site, is unique because it is carved from stone, unlike most which are made from clay.screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-8-15-36-am



Its excellent condition and craftsmanship also set it apart, he said.Unlike others found in garbage pits,

Hodder said this figurine was found beneath a platform along with a piece of obsidian which suggests that it may have been placed there as part of some ritual

Such figurines are often thought of as fertility goddesses. However, Hodder cites newer theories that suggest this object represents older women who have achieved status.


screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-8-00-23-am“The new figurine certainly suggests such an interpretation with its sagging breasts and belly,” he said.

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Catalhoyuk is one of the earliest cities uncovered and dates back nearly 9,000 years. Archaeological research has been conducted there since the 1960s. Google images has a vast collection of the murals, pottery, figurines, and tools discovered there here.


Source: 8,000-year-old female figurine uncovered in central Turkey

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Beware of Aussie Hitchhikers!!

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How Corporate Cash Corrupts American politics Scott Walker & the John Doe files| The Guardian

Since the US media has become a bunch of corporate shills instead of investigative journalists we have to depend of other countries’ news outlets for stories like this.

Leaked court documents from ‘John Doe investigation’ in Wisconsin lay bare pervasive influence of corporate cash on modern US elections.

This is a very long article that I haven’t yet finished but as an American it embarrasses me.

Source: Scott Walker, the John Doe files and how corporate cash influences American politics | US news | The Guardian

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Sugar Study Draws Attention to Food Industry’s Sour Secret | Smart News | Smithsonian

Shown: Not meth but another kind of addictive crystal

The Sugar Association, paid the equivalent of about $49,000 today to three scientists to conduct a literature review on scientific evidence about sugars, fats and coronary heart disease. Their investigation was eventually published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. However, the foundation apparently cherry-picked data favorable to its desired conclusion that fat, not sugar, was linked to coronary heart disease and its funding of the review was not disclosed.

Source: Sugar Study Draws Attention to Food Industry’s Sour Secret | Smart News | Smithsonian

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Fantastic Four’s Ben Grimm… Sad News


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