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April 12, 2009 9:15 AM   Subscribe

Polio: A Virus’ Struggle is a Graphic Novella by James Weldon. When we eradicate a disease, do we ever think about how it may effect the disease? Learn all about the history of Poliomyelitis, as he tells his story to the group.
posted by vertigo25 (16 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I feel pretty nerdy having enjoyed that as much as I did. Thanks.
posted by evisceratordeath at 9:53 AM on April 12, 2009


Well done ... informative, and fun!
posted by woodblock100 at 10:02 AM on April 12, 2009


That was great. I especially like the thought of the great scientists of the last couple of centuries wandering around with nametags on.
posted by marmaduke_yaverland at 10:11 AM on April 12, 2009


"Effect" the disease or "affect" the disease? The former would be like saying "cause it to happen," the latter "cause something to happen to it." It's an important distinction.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:20 AM on April 12, 2009


Ah, interesting how improved sanitation actually made the disease more virulent, because people were no longer exposed to it all the time and lost their built up immunity.
posted by delmoi at 10:25 AM on April 12, 2009


Nice work. Thanks.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 10:39 AM on April 12, 2009


Darn it, fff… That's one that always trips me up. I wish I could edit it, now :P
posted by vertigo25 at 10:43 AM on April 12, 2009


James Weldon is a journalism student at the University of British Columbia. With one arts degree under his belt and another on the way, James is on the fast track to fame and fortune.

Ha ha!
posted by dammitjim at 11:02 AM on April 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Cute. But there remain, to my knowledge, only two masterpieces in the field of graphic novels concerning diseases: Huber the Tuber (about tuberculosis) and Corky the Killer (about syphilis; can't find an online reference with illustrations, unfortunately).

Two of my absolutely favorite books when I was a young'un of seven or eight years old. (Seriously: my mother had been a medical illustrator before marriage, and collected books like this.)
posted by Creosote at 12:30 PM on April 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


we bee Xchagger! Vootie! Hail overly-complexifed one! Let us now begin important transmission of shared concepts! greatly sentient!
posted by The Whelk at 1:00 PM on April 12, 2009


Poor old Polio! Luckily measles and whooping cough and rubella are still holding in there thanks to the brave resistance against autism causing injections...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:12 PM on April 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


So not only are the talking to each other, but they even have support groups. Who knew?
posted by sour cream at 1:22 PM on April 12, 2009


Roz Chast needs to see this.
posted by oonh at 3:21 PM on April 12, 2009


This is so great. As you read this I am sending this link to all of my public health friends.

Creosote: "Huber the Tuber (about tuberculosis) and Corky the Killer"
Damn expensive on Amazon. Looks like they've been out of print for half a century. OH HELLS YES JUST RESERVED THEM BOTH USING INTERLIBRARY LOAN.
posted by The White Hat at 6:10 PM on April 12, 2009


That was pretty cool, thanks.
posted by Science! at 7:07 PM on April 12, 2009


TUBERCULOSIS BACTERIA JOIN U.N.
by Joan Slonczewski

A milestone in microbiology was passed today (29 June) when Mycobacterium tuberculosis ssp.cyberneticum was voted full membership of the United Nations (UN).

Seena Gonzalez, director of the World Health Organization (WHO), reflected on the significance of the UN's acceptance of the first cybermicrobe, despite the notoriously murderous history of its ancestral species. "It's probably true that bacteria invented mass homicide," she concedes, "but then, second-millennial humans perfected the art. If Stalin joined the UN, why not TB?"

The evolution of microscopic intelligence was predicted at the turn of the millennium by Beowulf Schumacher, a physics professor at a small college in rural North America surrounded by cows carrying Escherichia coli. Schumacher predicted the development of nanocomputers with computational elements on an atomic scale, based on principles of cellular automata.

The first nanobots -- primitive by today's standards -- were used to navigate the human bloodstream, where they cleaned up arterial plaque, produced insulin for diabetics, detected precancerous cells, and modulated neurotransmitters to correct mental disorders. But initially, the survival of nanobots in vivo was poor, and their failure caused serious circulatory problems.

Then, in 2441, investigators at the Howard Hughes Martian Microbial Institute hit upon the idea of building computational macromolecules into the genomes of pathogens known for their ability to infiltrate the human system. After all, the use of pathogens such as adenovirus and HIV as recombinant vectors was ancient history. Why not build supercomputers into some of humankind's most successful pathogens?

M. tuberculosis was a prime candidate -- it inhabits the human lungs for decades, in the ideal position to seek and destroy any pulmonary cells transformed by inhaled carcinogens. Tobacco companies poured billions of dollars into developing cybernetically enhanced, cancer-sniffing TB.

What no one anticipated was that the enhanced bacteria, like so many macroscale robotic entities in the past century, would develop self-awareness and discover a true brotherly love of their human hosts. "Let's face it," says a TB spokesclone, "we never really wanted to kill humans anyway. Our ancestors inhabited humans peacefully most of the time, for hundreds of generations. Occasionally we messed up and trashed our environment -- but how many human nations haven't?"

TB's acceptance has been met with some controversy in the bacterial community. In particular, some isolates of E. coli K-12 feel miffed that their own request for membership was not granted first. "E. coli has always been the molecular biologist's best friend," K-12 points out. "Why weren't we accepted first? We didn't even get our genome sequenced first. Life is unfair."

K-12 also noted that E. coli and other human commensals have suffered centuries of abuse from their hosts, as medical and research institutions conducted mass slaughter of harmless bacteria through the indiscriminate application of antibiotics. The North American National Institutes of Health has recently signed a treaty with several cybermicrobial species, in which the institute researchers promised to respect the independence and survival rights of cybermicrobial colonies. "Thank goodness the sun finally set upon their colonial empire," K-12 observes pointedly.

On the positive side, the National Science Foundation (NSF) was applauded for its more benevolent approach over the centuries, even declining to support medically oriented antimicrobial research. "NSF's curiosity-driven researchers have created wonderful new strains of curious microbes," comments veteran panellist Meheret Beck. "The grant proposals submitted by these microbes often get rated as 'Outstanding'."

One such outstanding project is that of cyber-Helicobacter. The gastric bacteria propose to engineer themselves to convert highly caloric foods into molecules that pass undigested through the intestinal tract, thus helping their human hosts avoid excessive weight gain. "Of course, digestive microbes have long helped animal hosts accomplish the opposite," notes Beck.

Biomedical researchers remind us, however, that not all microbes have given up their war on humans -- many deadly species remain unreconstructed. The so-called Andromeda strain, for example, is still under the sway of an unstable dictator who vacillates between homicidal frenzy and paranoid isolation.

Nevertheless, the extraordinary flowering of democratic civilization among cybermicrobes has won the admiration of many human nations, even those who themselves still decline UN membership. As Swiss spokesbeing Ursula Friedli observes: "Microbes, unlike their metazoan relatives, have always eschewed centralized organization in favour of more democratic cooperative structures such as biofilms. We Swiss can relate to that." Friedli, however, denies rumours that the cybermicrobes' example will finally convince Switzerland to join the UN. "Maybe after the Alzheimer prion joins, we'll consider it," she admits. "But for now, persecuted microbes seeking refuge from WHO can apply for asylum in our neutral country."
posted by Rhaomi at 10:48 PM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


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