Singapore is a rather peaceful place in general, but a recent development is actually scaring the living daylights out of residents. It all started when someone discovered an abandoned doll on the side of a busy street. If you’ve watched your share of horror flicks, you probably know exactly how scary dolls can be.
"isn’t this just a series of mistakes disguised as musical composition?”
What is the organism? Bacteria, virus, protist, parasite, or fungi? The type of organism informs you of the types of disinfectants, antiseptics and antimicrobials to use. Is it aerobic or anaerobic? What are its virulence factors? Toxin production in particular effect the course of the infection. What is its target host tissue?
Where do you find the organism in between outbreaks? What is the continual source of the infection? A reservoir can be environmental, the hospital setting or the water supply, or in a living organism, a rodent, bird or even snail. Humans are the only reservoir for many human pathogens.
Portal of Exit:
How does the organism leave the reservoir? Does it leave in feces, blood or mucus; in contaminated water; or in the blood meal of an insect.
How is the organism transmitted from one host to the next host? Does it need a living vector like a mosquito or flea? Some organisms like malaria have complicated life cycles involving more than one species. Can it be passed human to human? When passed human to human, it is transmitted by respiratory droplets, blood contact, semen or other secretions? Is it transmitted on the hands of health care workers or the hospital ventilation system? Hand-to-mouth is a common mode for gastrointestinal pathogens.
Portal of Entry:
How does the organism enter the body? Does it come through inhalation, a break in the skin or mucus membrane, an insect bite, contaminated food? The portals of entry would be through the nose, skin, or mouth. Portal of entry tells you what type of personal protective equipment (PPE) to use to keep health care workers, family and visitors safe.
Who is most vulnerable to this organism? Common vulnerable populations are the very young and the very old, and the immune suppressed (due to genetics, transplant drugs, malnutrition, or viral infection like HIV). Occupational exposure should be considered. For many human pathogens, all of the non-immune are vulnerable. The non-immune are everyone who has not been previously exposed and generated a specific immune response to the pathogen. Previous exposure comes from either a previous infection or vaccination, or rarely with infection of a similar species that gives cross-immunity.
It was the mass grave that got their attention. Four bodies crammed into one casket, with one child outside but with the casket. Multiple graves are not common in Yakutia, Siberia. Examination of the late 17th to early 18th century mummies indicates that burial came quickly after death.
The casket contains one adult male over age 30, an adult female, an adult female under age 23, a male child about 5 years old, and outside the casket a child about 4 years old.
The French and Russian team led by Philippe Biagini undertook pathological and genetic analysis of all five mummies. They were able to confirm that the older woman is the mother of the young adult woman and the adult male. They took lung and tooth specimens from each mummy at the site (in situ). Finding iron inclusions in the lungs of the young female (mummy 2), suggested to the team that she suffered a pulmonary hemorrhage shortly before death.
They don’t say how they jumped from there to screening for smallpox or what other pathogens were considered. Oddly, they make no mention of any smallpox lesions on the mummy. (Without other bioarchaeological data, is it possible that this team only received the tooth and lung specimens, but not the remainder of the mummy?)
The DNA was divided among three labs. Three short sections of Variola (smallpox) genome were amplified by at least two labs each. They failed to amplify long stretches of the virus, suggesting that there are no intact virons left in the mummy. Their phylogenetic analysis grouped this virus, PoxSib, with Variola but distinct from both clade 1 and clade 2.
They suggest that PoxSib could be an ancestral strain to both clade 1 and clade 2 or a strain that has not been previously sampled. Biagini et al. suggest this virus may have come to Siberia with the Russian conquest in early 18th century, possibly connected with a documented outbreak in 1714.
This grave comes from the same culture as previously analyzed graves that isolated the first ancient whooping cough.