#Pandemic #COVID19 Joins History’s Pandemic Legion (mBio, abstract)

[Source: mBio, full page: (LINK). Abstract, edited.]

Pandemic COVID-19 Joins History’s Pandemic Legion

David M. Morens, Peter Daszak, Howard Markel, Jeffery K. Taubenberger

Benhur Lee, Invited Editor, Vinayaka R. Prasad, Editor

DOI: 10.1128/mBio.00812-20



With great apprehension, the world is now watching the birth of a novel pandemic already causing tremendous suffering, death, and disruption of normal life. Uncertainty and dread are exacerbated by the belief that what we are experiencing is new and mysterious. However, deadly pandemics and disease emergences are not new phenomena: they have been challenging human existence throughout recorded history. Some have killed sizeable percentages of humanity, but humans have always searched for, and often found, ways of mitigating their deadly effects. We here review the ancient and modern histories of such diseases, discuss factors associated with their emergences, and attempt to identify lessons that will help us meet the current challenge.

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; COVID-19; Pandemics; History.


#Stories of the 1918 #influenza #pandemic and its legacy (Lancet Infect Dis., summary)

[Source: The Lancet Infectious Diseases, full page: (LINK). Summary, edited.]

Stories of the 1918 influenza pandemic and its legacy

Marta Gritti

Published: December 09, 2019 / DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(19)30710-8


A century has passed since the 1918 influenza pandemic, the deadliest epidemic in human history, that killed 50–100 million people in a matter of months, causing more deaths than World War 1. Today, with influenza vaccinations available and established health-care systems, we might feel that the events and stories of the 1918 pandemic are distant from our everyday lives. Yet, the fear that a new pandemic could occur exists, and in our globalised world the risk of spread is extreme. Researchers and international health organisations are committed to constant investigation and surveillance to prevent such a risk from becoming a reality, but how have they reached this milestone?


Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Pandemic Influenza; Spanish Flu.


Srinivasa #Ramanujan: in #celebration of the #centenary of his election as #FRS (Phil Transact Roy Soc., summary)

[Source: Philosophical Transaction of the Royal Society, full page: (LINK). Summary, edited.]

Srinivasa Ramanujan: in celebration of the centenary of his election as FRS

Ken Ono

Published: 09 December 2019 / DOI: https://doi.org/10.1098/rsta.2019.0386

Citation: Ono Ken, Srinivasa Ramanujan: in celebration of the centenary of his election as FRS378Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Scienceshttp://doi.org/10.1098/rsta.2019.0386


Srinivasa Ramanujan, the so-called Man Who Knew Infinity, was one of the most influential, as well as most enigmatic, mathematicians in the recent history of mathematics. With a letter written to G. H. Hardy in 1913, the impoverished Hindu college dropout, self-taught in mathematics, reaching for worlds beyond the shores of India, introduced himself to the history of science.


Keywords: Mathematics.


The #Justinianic #Plague: An inconsequential #pandemic? (Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, abstract)

[Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, full page: (LINK). Abstract, edited.]

The Justinianic Plague: An inconsequential pandemic?

Lee Mordechai, Merle Eisenberg, Timothy P. Newfield, Adam Izdebski, Janet E. Kay, and Hendrik Poinar

PNAS first published December 2, 2019 / DOI: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1903797116

Edited by Noel Lenski, Yale University, New Haven, CT, and accepted by Editorial Board Member Elsa M. Redmond October 7, 2019 (received for review March 4, 2019)



The Justinianic Plague (circa 541 to 750 CE) has recently featured prominently in scholarly and popular discussions. Current consensus accepts that it resulted in the deaths of between a quarter and half of the population of the Mediterranean, playing a key role in the fall of the Roman Empire. Our contribution argues that earlier estimates are founded on a small subset of textual evidence and are not supported by many other independent types of evidence (e.g., papyri, coins, inscriptions, and pollen archaeology). We therefore conclude that earlier analyses of the mortality and social effects of the plague are exaggerated, and that the nontextual evidence suggests plague did not play a significant role in the transformation of the Mediterranean world or Europe.



Existing mortality estimates assert that the Justinianic Plague (circa 541 to 750 CE) caused tens of millions of deaths throughout the Mediterranean world and Europe, helping to end antiquity and start the Middle Ages. In this article, we argue that this paradigm does not fit the evidence. We examine a series of independent quantitative and qualitative datasets that are directly or indirectly linked to demographic and economic trends during this two-century period: Written sources, legislation, coinage, papyri, inscriptions, pollen, ancient DNA, and mortuary archaeology. Individually or together, they fail to support the maximalist paradigm: None has a clear independent link to plague outbreaks and none supports maximalist reconstructions of late antique plague. Instead of large-scale, disruptive mortality, when contextualized and examined together, the datasets suggest continuity across the plague period. Although demographic, economic, and political changes continued between the 6th and 8th centuries, the evidence does not support the now commonplace claim that the Justinianic Plague was a primary causal factor of them.

Justinianic Plague – first plague pandemic – Late Antiquity – plague – Yersinia pestis

Keywords: European Region; Plague; History; Society.


A #paediatric #influenza #update 100 years after the #Skyros island #Spanishflu #outbreak (Exp Ther Med., abstract)

[Source: US National Library of Medicine, full page: (LINK). Abstract, edited.]

Exp Ther Med. 2019 Jun;17(6):4327-4336. doi: 10.3892/etm.2019.7515. Epub 2019 Apr 22.

A paediatric influenza update 100 years after the Skyros island Spanish flu outbreak.

Mammas IN1, Theodoridou M2, Thiagarajan P3, Melidou A4, Papaioannou G5, Korovessi P6, Koutsaftiki C7, Papatheodoropoulou A8, Calachanis M9, Dalianis T10, Spandidos DA1.

Author information: 1 Department of Clinical Virology, School of Medicine, University of Crete, 71003 Heraklion, Greece. 2 First Department of Paediatrics, ‘Aghia Sophia’ Children’s Hospital, University of Athens School of Medicine, 115 27 Athens, Greece. 3 Neonatal Unit, Division for Women’s & Children Health, Noble’s Hospital, IM4 4RJ Douglas, Isle of Man, British Isles. 4 Second Laboratory of Microbiology, School of Medicine, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, 541 24 Thessaloniki, Greece. 5 Department of Paediatric Radiology, ‘Mitera’ Children’s Hospital, 151 23 Athens, Greece. 6 Department of Paediatrics, ‘Penteli’ Children’s Hospital, 152 36 Penteli, Greece. 7 Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), ‘Penteli’ Children’s Hospital, 152 36 Penteli, Greece. 8 Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), ‘P. and A. Kyriakou’ Children’s Hospital, 115 27 Athens, Greece. 9 Department of Paediatric Cardiology, ‘Penteli’ Children’s Hospital, 152 36 Penteli, Greece. 10 Karolinska Institutet, Karolinska University Hospital, SE-117 77 Stockholm, Sweden.



This year marks the 100th anniversary of the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak on the Greek Aegean Sea island of Skyros, which devastated its population in less than 30 days. According to Constantinos Faltaits’s annals published in 1919, the influenza attack on the island of Skyros commenced acutely ‘like a thunderbolt’ on the 27th of October, 1918 and was exceptionally severe and fatal. At that time, the viral cause of the influenza had not been detected, while the total number of victims of the Spanish flu outbreak has been estimated to have surpassed 50 million, worldwide. Almost one century after this Aegean Sea island’s tragedy, the ‘4th Workshop on Paediatric Virology’, organised on the 22nd of September, 2018 in Athens, Greece, was dedicated to the 100 years of the ‘Spanish’ flu pandemic. This review article highlights the plenary and key lectures presented at the workshop on the recent advances on the epidemiology, clinical management and prevention of influenza in childhood.

KEYWORDS: H1N1; Paediatric Intensive Care Unit; antiviral drugs; influenza; myocarditis; neurological complications; paediatric virology; probiotics; radiology; vaccination

PMID: 31186675 PMCID: PMC6507498 DOI: 10.3892/etm.2019.7515

Keywords: Pandemic Influenza; Spanish Flu; Pediatrics; History; Greece.


#Archaeological #evidence that a late 14th-century #tsunami devastated the coast of northern #Sumatra and redirected history (Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, abstract)

[Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, full page: (LINK). Abstract, edited.]

Archaeological evidence that a late 14th-century tsunami devastated the coast of northern Sumatra and redirected history

Patrick Daly, Kerry Sieh, Tai Yew Seng, Edmund Edwards McKinnon, Andrew C. Parnell, Ardiansyah, R. Michael Feener, Nazli Ismail, Nizamuddin, and Jedrzej Majewski

PNAS first published May 28, 2019 / DOI: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1902241116

Contributed by Kerry Sieh, April 11, 2019 (sent for review February 8, 2019; reviewed by Roland J. Fletcher, Anthony J. S. Reid, and Ezra B. W. Zubrow)



We demonstrate that a tsunami in the late 14th century CE destroyed coastal sites along a critical part of the maritime Silk Road and set in motion profound changes in the political economy of Southeast Asia. Our results provide a precise chronology of settlement and trade along a historically strategic section of the Sumatran coast and are robust physical evidence for the rise of the Aceh Sultanate. Tragically, coastal areas impacted by the late 14th century tsunami were devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. This makes our findings relevant to debates about hazard mitigation and risk reduction. This example shows that archaeological, historical, and geological data are relevant in discussions about the long-term sustainability of communities exposed to geological hazards.



Archaeological evidence shows that a predecessor of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami devastated nine distinct communities along a 40-km section of the northern coast of Sumatra in about 1394 CE. Our evidence is the spatial and temporal distribution of tens of thousands of medieval ceramic sherds and over 5,000 carved gravestones, collected and recorded during a systematic landscape archaeology survey near the modern city of Banda Aceh. Only the trading settlement of Lamri, perched on a headland above the reach of the tsunami, survived into and through the subsequent 15th century. It is of historical and political interest that by the 16th century, however, Lamri was abandoned, while low-lying coastal sites destroyed by the 1394 tsunami were resettled as the population center of the new economically and politically ascendant Aceh Sultanate. Our evidence implies that the 1394 tsunami was large enough to impact severely many of the areas inundated by the 2004 tsunami and to provoke a significant reconfiguration of the region’s political and economic landscape that shaped the history of the region in subsequent centuries.

tsunami – Sumatra – Aceh – postdisaster recovery – hazards

Keywords: Earthquakes; Tsunami; History; Society; Sumatra.


A possible #European #origin of the #Spanish #influenza and the first attempts to reduce #mortality to combat superinfecting #bacteria: an opinion from a virologist and a military historian (Hum Vaccin Immunother., abstract)

[Source: US National Library of Medicine, full page: (LINK). Abstract, edited.]

Hum Vaccin Immunother. 2019 May 23:1-4. doi: 10.1080/21645515.2019.1607711. [Epub ahead of print]

A possible European origin of the Spanish influenza and the first attempts to reduce mortality to combat superinfecting bacteria: an opinion from a virologist and a military historian.

Oxford JS1, Gill D1.

Author information: 1a Blizard Institute, Queen Mary University London , Whitechapel, London.



When we reconsider the virology and history of the Spanish Influenza Pandemic, the science of 2018 provides us with tools which did not exist at the time. Two such tools come to mind. The first lies in the field of ‘gain of function’ experiments. A potential pandemic virus, such as influenza A (H5N1), can be deliberately mutated in the laboratory in order to change its virulence and spreadability. Key mutations can then be identified. A second tool lies in phylogenetics, combined with molecular clock analysis. It shows that the 1918 pandemic virus first emerged in the years 1915-1916. We have revisited the literature published in Europe and the United States, and the notes left by physicians who lived at the time. In this, we have followed the words of the late Alfred Crosby: who wrote that “contemporary documentary evidence from qualified physicians” is the key to understanding where and how the first outbreaks occurred. In our view, the scientists working in Europe fulfill Crosby’s requirement for contemporary evidence of origin. Elsewhere, Crosby also suggested that “the physicians of 1918 were participants in the greatest failure of medical science in the twentieth century”. Ours is a different approach. We point to individual pathologists in the United States and in France, who strove to construct the first universal vaccines against influenza. Their efforts were not misdirected, because the ultimate cause of death in nearly all cases flowed from superinfections with respiratory bacteria.

KEYWORDS: Etaples Administrative District; Hospital Beds in the Great War; Hygiene in the Great War; Influenza Epidemics in 1917; New Vaccines; Spanish Influenza Origin

PMID: 31121112 DOI: 10.1080/21645515.2019.1607711

Keywords: Pandemic Influenza; H1N1; Spanish flu; History.


The #Spanish #Influenza #Pandemic: a #lesson from #history 100 years after 1918 (J Prev Med Hyg., abstract)

[Source: US National Library of Medicine, full page: (LINK). Abstract, edited.]

J Prev Med Hyg. 2019 Mar 29;60(1):E64-E67. doi: 10.15167/2421-4248/jpmh2019.60.1.1205. eCollection 2019 Mar.

The Spanish Influenza Pandemic: a lesson from history 100 years after 1918.

Martini M1,2, Gazzaniga V3, Bragazzi NL4, Barberis I4.

Author information: 1 Department of Health Sciences, Section of Medical History and Ethics, University of Genoa, Italy. 2 UNESCO CHAIR Anthropology of Health, Biosphere and Healing System, University of Genoa, Italy. 3 Department of Medico-Surgical Sciences and Biotechnologies, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy. 4 Department of Health Sciences, University of Genoa, Italy.



In Europe in 1918, influenza spread through Spain, France, Great Britain and Italy, causing havoc with military operations during the First World War. The influenza pandemic of 1918 killed more than 50 million people worldwide. In addition, its socioeconomic consequences were huge. “Spanish flu”, as the infection was dubbed, hit different age-groups, displaying a so-called “W-trend”, typically with two spikes in children and the elderly. However, healthy young adults were also affected. In order to avoid alarming the public, several local health authorities refused to reveal the numbers of people affected and deaths. Consequently, it was very difficult to assess the impact of the disease at the time. Although official communications issued by health authorities worldwide expressed certainty about the etiology of the infection, in laboratories it was not always possible to isolate the famous Pfeiffer’s bacillus, which was, at that time, deemed to be the cause of influenza. The first official preventive actions were implemented in August 1918; these included the obligatory notification of suspected cases and the surveillance of communities such as day-schools, boarding schools and barracks. Identifying suspected cases through surveillance, and voluntary and/or mandatory quarantine or isolation, enabled the spread of Spanish flu to be curbed. At that time, these public health measures were the only effective weapons against the disease, as no vaccines or antivirals were available. Virological and bacteriological analysis of preserved samples from infected soldiers and other young people who died during the pandemic period is a major step toward a better understanding of this pandemic and of how to prepare for future pandemics.

KEYWORDS: Flu; History of Pandemic; Mortality rate; Public Health

PMID: 31041413 PMCID: PMC6477554 DOI: 10.15167/2421-4248/jpmh2019.60.1.1205

Keywords: Pandemic Influenza; H1N1; Spanish Flu; European Region; History.


Standing on the shoulders of giants: two #centuries of #struggle against #meningococcal disease (Lancet Infect Dis., abstract)

[Source: The Lancet Infectious Diseases, full page: (LINK). Abstract, edited.]

Standing on the shoulders of giants: two centuries of struggle against meningococcal disease

Prof Pere Domingo, MD, Virginia Pomar, MD, Albert Mauri, MD, Nicolau Barquet, MD

Published: April 30, 2019 / DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(19)30040-4



Meningococcal disease was first clinically characterised by Gaspard Vieusseux in 1805, and its causative agent was identified by Anton Weichselbaum in 1887, who named it Diplococcus intracellularis menigitidis. From the beginning, the disease was dreaded because of its epidemic nature, predilection for previously healthy children and adolescents, and high mortality. In the last decade of the 19th century, the concept of serum therapy for toxin-related bacterial diseases was identified. This concept was applied to meningococcal disease therapy, in an independent way, by Wilhelm Kolle, August von Wasserman, and Georg Jochmann in Germany, and Simon Flexner in the USA, resulting in the first successful approach for the treatment of meningococcal disease. During the first three decades of the 20th century, serum therapy was the standard treatment for meningococcal disease. With the advent of sulphamides first and then antibiotics, serum therapy was abandoned. The great challenges that infectious diseases medicine is facing and the awaiting menaces in the future in terms of increasing antibiotic resistance, emergence of new pathogens, and re-emergence of old ones without effective therapy, make passive immunotherapy a promising tool. Acknowledging the achievements of our predecessors might teach us some lessons to bring light to our future.

Keywords: Meningococcal disease; Antibiotics; Drugs Resistance; Serotherapy; History.


#Plague in #SanFrancisco: #rats, #racism and #reform (Nature, summary)

[Source: Nature, full page: (LINK). Summary, edited.]

Plague in San Francisco: rats, racism and reform

Tilli Tansey


An urban outbreak of a deadly infectious disease with no known cause is a disaster planner’s worst nightmare. In his rousing book Black Death at the Golden Gate, journalist David Randall describes just that: the bubonic-plague epidemic that struck San Francisco, California, in 1900. The race to identify, isolate and halt the disease is set against a rich background of official complacency, financial malfeasance, political intrigues and scientific disputes.



Nature 568, 454-455 (2019) / doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-01239-x

Keywords: Plague; USA; California; History.