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Nix the bear with syphilis.

Nix the bear with syphilis

A paleopathologist is offering a second opinion in the case of an Ice Age bear with syphilis. Scientists last year reported finding treponemes -- the organisms that cause syphilis -- on an 11,000-year0old bone from this bear discoveed in Indiana (SN:9/26/87, p.205). The find appeared to be the earliest known evidence of treponemal disease, which normally infects only primates.

Another scientist now contends the bear probably had contracted some fungal diseage that normally infects wild animals and is known to have been rampant at the time. Reporting in the June 15 NATURE, Ellis Neiburger of the Lake County Museum in Waukegan, Ill., says the lesions on the vertebrae and limb bones are more consistent with such fungal diseases, which probably would not have killed the animal.

An immunologic test had previously located signs of treponemes on one bone from the bear. But Neiburger says these most likely represent contamination either from the ground, where the bones rested for thousands of years, or from one of the hundreds of people who have handled the bones. He also suggests that since the results of the immunologic test are based on only one sample, they may represent a false positive. Neiburger plans to conduct further tests to identify the disease that infected the bear.
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Title Annotation:scientist disputes treponemes found on 11,000-year-old bone
Publication:Science News
Date:Jun 18, 1988
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