Re: diseases and immunity

Gerold Firl (
23 Jul 1996 20:44:17 GMT

In article <4t0umg$>, Beth Williams) writes:

|> In <4t0ncs$> (Gerold Firl)
|> writes:

|> >In article <4slbji$>,
|> Beth Williams) writes:

|> >|> So, what you're saying is that within these *virgin soil* TB
|> epidemics,
|> >|> people are dying of *skeletal TB* in a week or two?????

|> >The dubos reference cited by macneill stated that an epidemic of TB in
|> >an immunologically inexperienced indian tribe produced symptoms of
|> >meningitis and showed evidence of bacterial colonization of other
|> >internal organs, as I've repeatedly informed you. It says nothing
|> >about skeletal TB.

|> Yes, and Gerold we've gone over this time and time again... How were
|> either MacNeill or Dubos certain that the disease which was described
|> was in fact TB, _IF_ it had never manifested itself in this form
|> before???? Were autopsies performed??? Samples sent to a laboratory
|> to determine if this was in fact TB? You stated that this was
|> nineteenth century...In Canada... Just HOW did they manage to get such
|> accurate information? And funny that we haven't seen such a
|> manifestation at other times, in other purportedly *non-immune*
|> populations.

Your memory is selective, mb. This example was raised by joel
gazis-sax, who claimed that it referred to a 20th century outbreak
among a particular tribe, I think it was the sioux. I suggested that he
might have been thinking of the reference in macneill to "a canadian
tribe" (no time frame given), and I stated that I had *assummed* it
occured in the 19th century. Joel never replied, so maybe he was
talking about a different episode altogether, but I've given you the
facts I have, and discussed different interpretations of them. That's

And as far as other "purportedly *non-immune*" populations, I did
mention earlier the example of the maori cited by crosby. TB was the
main epidemic killer among the maori, since the islands were
effectively quarantined against smallpox. You have read crosby, haven't

|> Trying to build your case here is running into a slew of hurdles,
|> Gerold;
|> 1.) Indian populations were, most likely, not *immunologically
|> inexperienced* when it came to TB, as there is substantial evidence
|> that TB existed in pre-Contact populations.

If so, it was a different strain of TB, one which had settled down,
long ago, into a pattern of endemic infection. Human and bacterial
coevolution had produced a stable parasitic relationship.

|> 2.) Your use of ONE citations is problematic for any host of reasons,
|> a. Its a citation (MacNeill) of a citation (Dubos), the latter you
|> haven't even looked up to see from where (historical or physical) he
|> derives his *evidence*.

True. I haven't looked it up. It does not appear at all anomolous to
me, since this pattern is commonly seen all around the world, any time
a new disease hits an inexperienced population.

It does, however, appear anomolous to you, since you don't understand
pathogen-host population dynamics. If you want to contribute in this
area, you need to educate yourself further.

|> b. The purported claim of TB derives from a case in Canada in the 19th
|> century, long before appropriate methods to diagnose rare forms of TB
|> were available.

Again, I don't know if it was 19th century, or how the diagnosis of TB
was made. If it matters to you, look it up. If it doesn't mater to you,
then I guess you'll just keep on flailing.

|> c. If it was in fact intestinal TB, the disease was not a *mutation*
|> in Indian populations, but had been experienced by Europeans for
|> centuries (although less likely to be seen in Indians, as it was
|> contracted through ingestion.)

Agian, you made up this intestinal hypothesis. Macneill specifically
mentioned meningitis, and noted that other organs were also infected.

Plus, there is no need to hypothesize about mutations, since bacteria
often carry genetic information controlling the cell membrane proteins
which determine what part of the hosts body they will adhere to on
plasmids which are readily exchanged with other bacilli. A bacterial
culture will maintain a large variety alternative plasmid alleles,
which enables them to rapidly exploit changes in the host environment.

I would think you'd want to know about this stuff.

|> >No. You claim that skeletal TB shows up in a very low percentage of
|> >cases: 3-5%. I am accepting your claim, in the absense of further
|> data.
|> >It does not, however change this discussion in a material way. I had
|> >stated that TB, which is usually a pulmonary infection in experienced
|> >populations, spread to other parts of the body in the case cited by
|> >macneill and dubos.

|> Re-read your own posts, Gerold... You have TB as an epidemic in Contact
|> populations, something that you have been unable to prove
|> archaeologically or historically (with the exception of a citation you
|> haven't fully investigated.)

See crosby, _ecological imperialism_ for the new zealand example.

|> >|> >Whereas, in dubos and macneill are to be believed, TB in a
|> >|> >virgin-soil epidemic killed much more quickly.

|> >|> You've yet to give any supportive evidence to these citations (and
|> its
|> >|> not _my_ job to look this stuff up for you -- they're your
|> citations,
|> >|> you should know the primary research from which they derive.)

|> >I wasn't suggesting that it was "your job" to look up things "for me".
|> >You claim to be an anthropologist who has done forensic-type field
|> >work on northwest indianm populations, including surveys of skeletal
|> >evidence of TB infection, and yet when I provide you with a reference
|> >describing unusual data (the TB epidemic manifesting as meningitis in
|> >the first generation, settling down to the familiar pulmonary pattern
|> >two generations later) you don't want anything to do with it.

|> The problem is, that you can't provide me with accurate data... If you
|> happened upon a group of people you don't know, and you see a number of
|> them tossing their cookies, then run back and say they all had food
|> poisoning, why should I accept that diagnosis without further
|> investigation as to _your_ diagnosing credentials?

This wasn't my diagnosis, this was a reference in _plagues and
peoples_, the seminal work on the influence of disease on history. If
you don't want to look at it, that's ok by me.

|> Are you a doctor?
|> Did you collect bodily fluid samples? Take notes? Autopsy the dead?
|> So _how_ do you know it was food poison? I just want you to be able to
|> tell me HOW Dubos knew what he (or whomever) was describing was in fact
|> TB.

Oh, is that all you want? When I find out, I'll let you know.

|> >|> European 5-year-olds and their Indian counterparts were equally
|> >|> susceptible to smallpox, and their mortality rates the same.

|> >How do you know this? What evidence exists to support this claim?

|> Gerold, have you been asleep?.. Go back to DejaNews... I posted
|> citations on this earlier in the thread.

I find it hard to believe that accurate statistics exist to describe
mortality rates among virgin-soil populations infected with smallpox. I
can imagine that pretty accurate numbers are availible to describe
mortality rates among experienced populations, but those would be very
low; in europe, africa, and asia, what percent of under-5 children died
of smallpox since such medical statistics were gathered? You're saying
that in amerindian populations experiencing the first onslaught of
smallpox, the same percentage died?

What would that percentage be? 5%? 10%? 50%? 90%?

Notice that in the kiowa legend about the coming of smallpox, saynday
states that smallpox kills men, women, and children alike; how much of
a differential mortality rate are you claiming for children versus

|> >|> and even our lamentable cannibalism
|> >|> >thread from a few months ago, where you stubbornly denied, in the
|> >|> >face of multifactorial evidence, that your beloved iroquois ate
|> manflesh.

|> >|> Gerold, you shoot yourself in the foot with this one... I guess
|> you're
|> >|> not at all familiar with the long-term animosity between the
|> Abenakis
|> >|> (Algonquins like me) and the Mohawks (the purported *cannibals* of
|> >|> European ethnohistory.)

|> >No. We've gone over this before. It wasn't just the mohawks. The
|> >iroquois and huron were also cannibals.

|> Uh, Gerold... Mohawks _are_ Iroquois (Haudenosaunee)...

So are the huron, actually.

But I guess I misunderstood you. You were saying that since you are
descended from algonquins, you would not try to cover-up iroquois
cannibalism, since you're hereditary enemies, right?

Were algonquins also "purported" to be cannibals by european

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf