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article imageFallen World War I solider helps with dysentery research

By Tim Sandle     Nov 14, 2014 in Odd News
In the wake of Remembrance Day, a sample taken from a soldier killed during World War I is helping scientists tackle dysentery. The research is focused on a bacterial sample isolated from the soldier’s remains.
Scientists have been examining a bacterial sample from a World War I soldier. This is in relation to the unpleasant disease dysentery. Dysentery kills hundreds of thousands of children under five each year around the world. Dysentery is a term for is diarrhea which contains blood. Other symptoms include fever, abdominal pain. A number of different infectious agents can lead to the disease occurring.
The current research is looking into a bacterial cause of the disease. Using a sample isolated from a World War I solider, biologists are attempting to reconstruct the complex genome of this bacterium. The bacterium is Shigella flexneri, and it has been decoded using advanced genetic sequencing methods.
By studying the genetic basis of the 1915 bacterium scientists have learnt more about the organisms inherent resistance to drugs. By comparing the 1915 specimen with bacteria in 2014, researchers can understand more about how the bacterium has changed over a hundred years and why it is resolute at evading antimicrobial treatments.
With the story of the solider himself, it appears that he became infected by it while fighting on the front lines of the Western Front in 1915. The story highlights how many fighting in the Great War were not necessarily killed by troops on the opposite; in the trenches disease was rife. The British soldier’s name was Private Ernest Cable of the Second Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment. The records indicate that he died from dysentery on March 13 1915.
When the solider died a sample of the bacterium was taken and held in the French coastal town of Wimereux. The sample provided a perfect specimen for modern analysis.
The findings have been published in the medical journal The Lancet, in an article titled “The extant World War 1 dysentery bacillus NCTC1: a genomic analysis.”
More about World War I, The Great War, Dysentery, Trenches
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