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Beasts of the Earth

Beasts of the Earth: Animals, Humans, and Disease

E. Fuller Torrey
Robert H. Yolken
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Beasts of the Earth
    Book Description:

    Humans have lived in close proximity to other animals for thousands of years. Recent scientific studies have even shown that the presence of animals has a positive effect on our physical and mental health. People with pets typically have lower blood pressure, show fewer symptoms of depression, and tend to get more exercise.But there is a darker side to the relationship between animals and humans. Animals are carriers of harmful infectious agents and the source of a myriad of human diseases. In recent years, the emergence of high-profile illnesses such as AIDS, SARS, West Nile virus, and bird flu has drawn much public attention, but as E. Fuller Torrey and Robert H. Yolken reveal, the transfer of deadly microbes from animals to humans is neither a new nor an easily avoided problem.Beginning with the domestication of farm animals nearly 10,000 years ago, Beasts of the Earth traces the ways that human-animal contact has evolved over time. Today, shared living quarters, overlapping ecosystems, and experimental surgical practices where organs or tissues are transplanted from non-humans into humans continue to open new avenues for the transmission of infectious agents. Other changes in human behavior like increased air travel, automated food processing, and threats of bioterrorism are increasing the contagion factor by transporting microbes further distances and to larger populations in virtually no time at all.While the authors urge that a better understanding of past diseases may help us lessen the severity of some illnesses, they also warn that, given our increasingly crowded planet, it is not a question of if but when and how often animal-transmitted diseases will pose serious challenges to human health in the future.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-3789-4
    Subjects: Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    This book is about human infectious diseases and the microbes that cause them. As the recent resurgence of AIDS, tuberculosis, and influenza has shown, infections are still major causes of illness and death in our society. We are also discovering that infectious agents may play a role in many chronic ailments such as cancer, heart disease, and schizophrenia. The microbes that cause infectious diseases are thus very much part of our daily lives.

    The vast majority of these microbes has been, and continues to be, transmitted to humans from other animals. A few diseases, heirloom infections such as those caused...

  5. CHAPTER 1 The Smallest Passengers on Noah’s Ark
    (pp. 1-13)

    Human diseases that are transmitted from animals are big news. Consider, for example, the following items reported in the United States during a single month, June 2003: 79 cases of human monkeypox, spread by pet prairie dogs; 7 cases of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) among the 8,398 cases worldwide, spread by palm civets or other animals; the season’s first human case of West Nile virus disease, spread from birds by mosquitoes; the season’s first human case of Eastern equine encephalitis, spread from horses and other animals by mosquitoes; the first case of hantavirus infection, spread by mice and other...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Heirloom Infections: Microbes before the Advent of Humans
    (pp. 14-22)

    If there ever was a Garden of Eden, it certainly was not free from disease. Adam may have been carrying the herpesviruses that cause cold sores and shingles, and Eve could have had hepatitis B. Mosquitoes in the garden may have been carrying the microbes that cause malaria and yellow fever. And the serpent that proffered Eve the forbidden fruit was almost certainly carryingSalmonellabacteria, as reptiles had been doing for millions of years. One hopes that Eve washed the apple before eating it and offering it to Adam.

    Given that bacteria, viruses, and protozoa had existed for millions...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Humans as Hunters: Animal Origins of Bioterrorism
    (pp. 23-32)

    Early hominids had little contact with animals other than themselves. The ancestors ofHomo sapiens,after breaking away from other African apes approximately six million years ago, subsisted on a diet mostly of insects, fruits, and leaves and apparently did little hunting of animals.

    The best measure of what early hominids ate is probably what modern chimpanzees eat. Jane Goodall, who studied these animals in Tanzania, observed them eating more than fifty types of fruit, thirty types of leaves and leaf buds, blossoms, seeds, bark, nuts, ants, termites, caterpillars, honey, and larval grubs of bees, wasps, and beetles. Chimpanzees occasionally...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Humans as Farmers: Microbes Move into the Home
    (pp. 33-47)

    Nobody fully understands why humans domesticated crops and farm animals when they did. Changes in climate are only part of the explanation. Perhaps the continuing evolution of the human brain also played a role, allowing people to plan ahead and work together in ways that had not previously been possible. Whatever the reasons, the Neolithic revolution, as it is commonly called, changed the relationship between humans and other animals more profoundly than any other event in history.

    By the beginning of the Neolithic period, hominids had spread broadly across the earth. They migrated from Africa into the Middle East and...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Humans as Villagers: Microbes in the Promised Land
    (pp. 48-55)

    Paleolithic hunters were remarkably isolated. For hundreds of thousands of years, they lived in small, extended family bands, often moving seasonally to follow the migrations of animals they hunted. According to Karlen’sMan and Microbes,the hunters “lived in bands of probably a few dozen, perhaps a hundred at most, . . . seldom exceeding a density of one person per square mile.”¹ Because of their sparse distribution, contact between groups was infrequent. During an entire lifetime, an individual would probably have interacted with no more than a few hundred other individuals.

    Neolithic farmers at first were also widely scattered....

  10. CHAPTER 6 Humans as Traders: Microbes Get Passports
    (pp. 56-67)

    For millions of years, microbes that were attached to mammals traveled neither very far nor very fast. Most hominids and other animals spent their lives in relatively circumscribed areas, and when they eventually migrated out of Africa, they traveled slowly. Since there were few opportunities for microbes to spread widely to nonimmune populations, microbe-caused disease epidemics were probably rare occurrences.

    As Neolithic farmers settled into villages, and towns grew into urban centers, trade and warfare increased the opportunities for travel for humans, other animals, and the microbes that accompanied them. As early as nine thousand years ago, Catalahöyük in Turkey...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Humans as Pet Keepers: Microbes Move into the Bedroom
    (pp. 68-96)

    During the ten thousand years since humans began domesticating animals, we have kept them primarily to supply our material needs. Their meat, milk, and eggs have been our major source of protein; their wool, skins, and fur have been our most important sources of clothing; and until the invention of the gasoline-powered engine, they were the main source of transportation for people and goods. They have also helped plow fields, herd sheep, turn waterwheels, guard the home, protect grain supplies from rodents, and track wild animals during the hunt. By supplying our material needs, animals have played a critical role...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Humans as Diners: Mad Cows and Sane Chickens
    (pp. 97-111)

    Humans have been infected with animal microbes since we first began to eat animal meat in the Paleolithic period. Paleolithic man acquired many animal macroparasites, such as taenia and trichinosis, as well as bacteria that cause such diseases as brucellosis, tularemia, and glanders. Humans have thus been exposed to animal microbes over thousands of years by eating animals’ meat and drinking their milk, and through animal fecal contamination of food and water. In biblical times, many of the Mosaic laws that governed food consumption and animal care, as detailed in Deuteronomy and Leviticus, were attempts to limit the spread of...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Microbes from the Modern Food Chain: Lessons from SARS, Influenza, and Bird Flu
    (pp. 112-123)

    That animal microbes can be transmitted to humans when humans eat the meat, milk, or eggs of infected animals is widely known. Less widely known is that animal microbes can also be transmitted to humans as a consequence of the modern food chain. As our food chain has become more complex and commercialized, opportunities have increased for new microbes to emerge and old microbes to undergo mutations. Such changes may produce new and serious threats to human health, as SARS, influenza, and bird flu (a form of influenza) illustrate.

    In the spring of 2003, the city of Toronto was virtually...

  14. CHAPTER 10 The Coming Plagues: Lessons from AIDS, West Nile Virus, and Lyme Disease
    (pp. 124-138)

    In 1969, the bar of human hubris was raised significantly when William H. Stewart, surgeon general of the United States, announced: “The war against infectious diseases has been won.”¹ Considering that bacteria, viruses, and protozoa had a more than two-billion-year head start in this war, a victory by recently arrivedHomo sapienswould be remarkable. In fact, the war against infectious diseases has just begun and is guaranteed to continue for as long as humans inhabit the planet.

    Previews of possible future skirmishes against animal microbes occur every day in hundreds of places around the world. We remain unaware of...

  15. CHAPTER 11 A Four-Footed View of History
    (pp. 139-144)

    Homo sapienshas had a peculiar history. For almost a million years, we wandered the world as hunters, living in small groups but creating no permanent civilizations. Then, approximately ten thousand years ago, we domesticated plants and animals; in the following eight thousand years, we created city-states, monuments, centralized governments, art, architecture, literature, and philosophy. Thus, during less than 1 percent of our time as a species, we went from being peripatetic nomads to the likes of Aristotle and Cicero.

    The remains of these early civilizations—the pyramids of Egypt, sculptures of Greece, and temples of Rome—are indeed impressive....

  16. Notes
    (pp. 145-170)
  17. Glossary of Definitions Related to Microbes
    (pp. 171-172)
  18. Appendix
    (pp. 173-174)
  19. Index
    (pp. 175-190)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 191-191)