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Chapter 3 : Six Plagues of Antiquity

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Abstract:

As humans changed their lifestyles, their relationship with infectious diseases came to be altered. For 2 million years these human populations consisted of small groups of hunter-gatherers with limited contact with other such groups, and there were no domesticated animals. Such a population structure, with little or no exposure to new sources of infection and where parasite survival and transmission were minimized, led to a situation in which epidemic diseases were virtually nonexistent. Indeed, only those diseases with very high transmission rates that induced little or no immunity, as well as macroparasitic diseases that did not involve vectors for transmission and sexually transmitted diseases, were able to establish themselves in the groups of hunter-gatherers. Although some vector-borne diseases, such as malaria and yellow fever, may have been present at this stage of human history, it was only after human populations settled down and adopted an agricultural life, or continued a nomadic existence that depended on the husbandry of large herds of animals, that conditions favored the emergence of epidemic diseases (plagues). Historically, plagues (Fig. 3.1) came to be recorded only in our recent past, a time when we became farmers.

Citation: Sherman I. 2017. Six Plagues of Antiquity, p 42-65. In The Power of Plagues, Second Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781683670018.ch3
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Figures

Image of Figure 3.1
Figure 3.1

(detail) circa 1652-1654 by Michiel Sweerts (1624-1664).

Citation: Sherman I. 2017. Six Plagues of Antiquity, p 42-65. In The Power of Plagues, Second Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781683670018.ch3
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Image of Figure 3.2
Figure 3.2

The blood fluke causative agent of the Pharoah’s Plague. A. Hieroglyphic; B. Calcified egg from a mummy; C. egg as seen with light microscope; D. Schistosoma mansoni egg with miracidium inside; E. adults in copula, as seen with a scanning electron microscope (from David Halton); F. ciliated miracidium as seen with the scanning electron microscope (courtesy of Vaughan Southgate); and G. cercaria, as seen with a scanning electron microscope (from David Halton). mw, male worm; fw, female worm; gc, gynecophoric canal

Citation: Sherman I. 2017. Six Plagues of Antiquity, p 42-65. In The Power of Plagues, Second Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781683670018.ch3
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Image of Figure 3.3
Figure 3.3

Two young boys infected with blood flukes

Citation: Sherman I. 2017. Six Plagues of Antiquity, p 42-65. In The Power of Plagues, Second Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781683670018.ch3
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Image of Figure 3.4
Figure 3.4

St. Sebastian in a painting by Andrea Mategna (1490) in Ca d’ Oro, Venice , Courtesy of Wikiart.org

Citation: Sherman I. 2017. Six Plagues of Antiquity, p 42-65. In The Power of Plagues, Second Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781683670018.ch3
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References

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