It was the kind of utterance that makes professional transcribers question their career choice: ” … there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign, but I can always speak for myself – and the Russians, zero.” When President Trump offered that response to a question at a press conference last week, it was the… Continue Reading →
Lasagna. Cheeseburgers. Pizza. Ice cream. Jerry Dotoli has enjoyed them all for most of his 73 years with no discomfort, only pleasure. Until last December, that is. The Ocean County man had gone to Florida for the winter, where he was beset by frequent hives accompanied by a ferocious itching “four times worse than poison ivy.”… Continue Reading →
We all forget things sometimes, whether it’s our car keys or the words to a song. As we age, changes in memory are normal, but we also become more susceptible to memory loss linked to dementia. Now, researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany, suggest a daily dose of THC in marijuana can strengthen brain… Continue Reading →
A potential cure for Type 1 diabetes looms on the horizon – and the novel approach would also allow Type 2 diabetics to stop insulin shots. The treatment totally cured diabetes in mice for an entire year without any side effects. The discovery, made at UT Health San Antonio, works by increasing the types of pancreatic… Continue Reading →
For a long time, medieval medicine has been dismissed as irrelevant. This time period is popularly referred to as the “Dark Ages,” which erroneously suggests that it was unenlightened by science or reason. However, some medievalists and scientists are now looking back to history for clues to inform the search for new antibiotics.
The evolution of antibiotic-resistant microbes means that it is always necessary to find new drugs to battle microbes that are no longer treatable with current antibiotics. But progress in finding new antibiotics is slow. The drug discovery pipeline is currently stalled. An estimated 700,000 people around the world die annually from drug-resistant infections. If the situation does not change, it is estimated that such infections will kill 10 million people per year by 2050.
I am part of the Ancientbiotics team, a group of medievalists, microbiologists, medicinal chemists, parasitologists, pharmacists and data scientists from multiple universities and countries. We believe that answers to the antibiotic crisis could be found in medical history. With the aid of modern technologies, we hope to unravel how premodern physicians treated infection and whether their cures really worked.
To that end, we are compiling a database of medieval medical recipes. By revealing patterns in medieval medical practice, our database could inform future laboratory research into the materials used to treat infection in the past. To our knowledge, this is the first attempt to create a medieval medicines database in this manner and for this purpose.
In 2015, our team published a pilot study on a 1,000-year old recipe called Bald’s eyesalve from “Bald’s Leechbook,” an Old English medical text. The eyesalve was to be used against a “wen,” which may be translated as a sty, or an infection of the eyelash follicle.
A common cause of modern styes is the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (or MRSA) is resistant to many current antibiotics. Staph and MRSA infections are responsible for a variety of severe and chronic infections, including wound infections, sepsis and pneumonia.
Bald’s eyesalve contains wine, garlic, an Allium species (such as leek or onion) and oxgall. The recipe states that, after the ingredients have been mixed together, they must stand in a brass vessel for nine nights before use.
In our study, this recipe turned out to be a potent antistaphylococcal agent, which repeatedly killed established S. aureus biofilms – a sticky matrix of bacteria adhered to a surface – in an in vitro infection model. It also killed MRSA in mouse chronic wound models.
Premodern European medicine has been poorly studied for its clinical potential, compared with traditional pharmacopeias of other parts of the world. Our research also raises questions about medieval medical practitioners. Today, the word “medieval” is used as a derogatory term, indicating cruel behavior, ignorance or backwards thinking. This perpetuates the myth that the period is unworthy of study.
During our eyesalve study, chemist Tu Youyou was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her discovery of a new therapy for malaria after searching over 2,000 recipes from ancient Chinese literature on herbal medicine. Is another “silver bullet” for microbial infection hidden within medieval European medical literature?
Certainly, there are medieval superstitions and treatments that we would not replicate today, such as purging a patient’s body of pathogenic humors. However, our work suggests that there could be a methodology behind the medicines of medieval practitioners, informed by a long tradition of observation and experimentation.
One key finding was that following the steps exactly as specified by the Bald’s eyesalve recipe – including waiting nine days before use – was crucial for its efficacy. Are the results of this medieval recipe representative of others that treat infection? Were practitioners selecting and combining materials following some “scientific” methodology for producing biologically active cocktails?
Further research may show that some medieval medicines were more than placebos or palliative aids, but actual “ancientbiotics” used long before the modern science of infection control. This idea underlies our current study on the medieval medical text, “Lylye of Medicynes.”
A medieval medicines database
The “Lylye of Medicynes” is a 15th-century Middle English translation of the Latin “Lilium medicinae,” first completed in 1305. It is a translation of the major work of a significant medieval physician, Bernard of Gordon. His “Lilium medicinae” was translated and printed continuously over many centuries, until at least the late 17th century.
The text contains a wealth of medical recipes. In the Middle English translation, there are 360 recipes – clearly indicated with Rx in the text – and many thousands more ingredient names.
As a doctoral student, I prepared the first-ever edition of the “Lylye of Medicynes” and compared the recipes against four extant Latin copies of the “Lilium medicinae.” This involved faithfully copying the Middle English text from the medieval manuscript, then editing that text for a modern reader, such as adding modern punctuation and correcting scribal errors. The “Lylye of Medicynes” is 245 folios, which equates to 600 pages of word-processed text.
I loaded the Middle English names of ingredients into a database, along with translations into modern equivalents, juxtaposed with relationships to recipe and disease. It is very time-consuming to format medieval data for processing with modern technologies. It also takes time to translate medieval medical ingredients into modern equivalents, due in part to multiple synonyms as well as variations in modern scientific nomenclature for plants. This information has to be verified across many sources.
With our database, we aim to find combinations of ingredients that occur repeatedly and are specifically used to treat infectious diseases. To achieve this, we are employing some common tools of data science, such as network analysis, a mathematical method to examine the relationships between entries. Our team will then examine how these patterns may help us to use medieval texts as inspiration for lab tests of candidate “ancientbiotic” recipes.
In March, we tested a small portion of the database to ensure that the method we developed was appropriate for this data set. At present, the database contains only the 360 recipes indicated with Rx. Now that the proof-of-concept stage is complete, I will expand the database to contain other ingredients which are clearly in recipe format, but may not be marked with Rx.
We are specifically interested in recipes associated with recognizable signs of infection. With Bald’s eyesalve, the combination of ingredients proved to be crucial. By examining the strength of ingredient relationships, we hope to find out whether medieval medical recipes are driven by certain combinations of antimicrobial ingredients.
The database could direct us to new recipes to test in the lab in our search for novel antibiotics, as well as inform new research into the antimicrobial agents contained in these ingredients on the molecular level. It could also deepen our understanding of how medieval practitioners “designed” recipes. Our research is in the beginning stages, but it holds exciting potential for the future.
It’s one souvenir you really don’t want to bring home CDC Angiostrongylus cantonensis larva You may have read a thing or two lately about the oh-so-grossly-named rat lungworm. This brain parasite isn’t new, but only became routine in the United States in recent years. Angiostrongylus cantonensis favors tropical climes, and used to crop up only in… Continue Reading →
And I mentioned all the crazy food sensitivities. I told her it all started after I got my gall bladder out, and asked if there was any connection.
She laughed. “Oh yes, there’s a well-known connection,” she said. “You no longer have the same emulsifiers that help digest food.”
Despite my many, many questions about this in the past few years, this is the first time a doctor has shared this information. Uninformed — or doesn’t give a shit?
So that’s good news. My immune system isn’t going crazy; I’m not digesting properly. That’s a problem I can probably work with.
Doctors for the first time can determine which medication is more likely to help a patient overcome depression, according to research that pushes the medical field beyond what has essentially been a guessing game of prescribing antidepressants. style=”display:inline-block;width:300px;height:250px” data-ad-client=”ca-pub-8420654331411867″ data-ad-slot=”1313712966″> A blood test that measures a certain type of protein level provides an immediate tool for… Continue Reading →
Step one: detergent Spinach could be good for your heart in more ways than one. It’s packed with fiber, vitamin A, and the branching vasculature necessary for cells to absorb nutrients. Which is why bioengineers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute decided to try growing human heart cells on the scaffolding of a humble spinach leaf. And it… Continue Reading →
I always wondered why people with CP were twisted up. Nice to know there’s something that can be done:
The diagnosis of cerebral palsy (CP) can be devastating for a family. CP is caused by damage to an infant’s brain – either during pregnancy, delivery, or immediately after birth.
It is a lifetime condition that can affect a child’s body movement, muscle control, coordination and tone, as well as a child’s balance, posture, and reflex. They can also suffer from epilepsy, hearing, intellectual, learning, speech, and visual impairments.
One of the most common medical issues that children with CP can develop is scoliosis. Scoliosis is when the spine develops a sideways curvature. It is estimated that between 21 to 64 percent of all CP patients develop the condition.
The effects that cerebral palsy has on a child’s muscles, causing poor control, weakness, and spasms, all contribute to scoliosis risks.
Typically, children with CP will begin developing scoliosis between the ages of 10 through 18. According to a recent review in the Journal of Spinal Surgery, surgery is the only option to treat scoliosis in CP patients.
According to the review, there are two types of distinct scoliosis curves CP patients suffer from. The first, referred to as Group-I, causes double curves with the lower (lumbar) and middle (thoracic) back components.
This type of scoliosis curve is usually found in patients who are ambulatory and suffer from an abnormal pelvic tilt.
The second type, Group-II, involves only single lower or middle back curves which are more pronounced. This type of curve is usually seen in quadriplegic patients.
Although studies have concluded that CP children who suffer from scoliosis can be treated by nonsurgical means, these treatments are only temporary, and eventually, surgery becomes necessary.
One of the more popular nonsurgical treatments for scoliosis is bracing techniques. Some studies found that these techniques were poorly tolerated by CP patients. And although in some cases, the technique slowed the progression of scoliosis, eventually surgery was needed.
Another form of treatment that is often used in CP patients is Intrathecal baclofen (ITB) pumps. Medication is delivered into the spinal fluid via these pumps to help with the pain and spasticity the patient is suffering from.
Although the medication does work in alleviating pain and spasms, there is some evidence that this medication may actually make scoliosis worse.
The conclusion of the review is that the only option CP patients have for scoliosis treatment is surgery.
One of the most dangerous complications that can occur with any CP patient undergoing surgery is with the respiratory system.
The review stresses that pre-operative non-invasive ventilation (NIV) training should be prescribed to help prevent respiratory infections or complications developing after the surgery.
Spine surgeon Dr. Victor Hayes commented, “When planning for this type of surgery, there needs to be a comprehensive preoperative assessment and involvement of a multi-disciplinary team.”
Although recovery from any surgery can be long and difficult for CP patients, the conclusion of the review was that the majority of patients who have undergone scoliosis surgery have been satisfied with the