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Ancient brewers tapped antibiotic secrets (beer arts)
Emory University ^ | August 30, 2010 | eScienceCommons

Posted on 09/02/2010 8:10:50 AM PDT by decimon

A chemical analysis of the bones of ancient Nubians shows that they were regularly consuming tetracycline, most likely in their beer. The finding is the strongest evidence yet that the art of making antibiotics, which officially dates to the discovery of penicillin in 1928, was common practice nearly 2,000 years ago.

The research, led by Emory anthropologist George Armelagos and medicinal chemist Mark Nelson of Paratek Pharmaceuticals, Inc., is published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

“We tend to associate drugs that cure diseases with modern medicine,” Armelagos says. “But it’s becoming increasingly clear that this prehistoric population was using empirical evidence to develop therapeutic agents. I have no doubt that they knew what they were doing.”

Armelagos is a bioarcheologist and an expert on prehistoric and ancient diets. In 1980, he discovered what appeared to be traces of tetracycline in human bones from Nubia dated between A.D. 350 and 550, populations that left no written record. The ancient Nubian kingdom was located in present-day Sudan, south of ancient Egypt.

Armelagos and his fellow researchers later tied the source of the antibiotic to the Nubian beer. The grain used to make the fermented gruel contained the soil bacteria streptomyces, which produces tetracycline. A key question was whether only occasional batches of the ancient beer contained tetracycline, which would indicate accidental contamination with the bacteria.

Nelson, a leading expert in tetracycline and other antibiotics, became interested in the project after hearing Armelagos speak at a conference. “I told him to send me some mummy bones, because I had the tools and the expertise to extract the tetracycline,” Nelson says. “It’s a nasty and dangerous process. I had to dissolve the bones in hydrogen fluoride, the most dangerous acid on the planet.”

The results stunned Nelson. “The bones of these ancient people were saturated with tetracycline, showing that they had been taking it for a long time,” he says. “I’m convinced that they had the science of fermentation under control and were purposely producing the drug.”

Even the tibia and skull belonging to a 4-year-old were full of tetracycline, suggesting that they were giving high doses to the child to try and cure him of illness, Nelson says.

The first of the modern day tetracyclines was discovered in 1948. It was given the name auereomycin, after the Latin word “aerous,” which means containing gold. “Streptomyces produce a golden colony of bacteria, and if it was floating on a batch of beer, it must have look pretty impressive to ancient people who revered gold,” Nelson theorizes.

The ancient Egyptians and Jordanians used beer to treat gum disease and other ailments, Armelagos says, adding that the complex art of fermenting antibiotics was probably widespread in ancient times, and handed down through generations.

The chemical confirmation of tetracycline in ancient bones is not the end of the story for Armelagos. He remains enthused after more than three decades on the project. “This opens up a whole new area of research,” he says. “Now we’re going to compare the amount of tetracycline in the bones, and bone formation over time, to determine the dosage that the ancient Nubians were getting.”


TOPICS: Agriculture; Food; Health/Medicine; History; Science
KEYWORDS: antibiotics; beer; godsgravesglyphs
So, have we any antibiotic beer today?
1 posted on 09/02/2010 8:10:51 AM PDT by decimon
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To: SunkenCiv; neverdem; DvdMom; grey_whiskers

Head up ping.


2 posted on 09/02/2010 8:11:55 AM PDT by decimon
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To: knews_hound

Beer ping.


3 posted on 09/02/2010 8:13:44 AM PDT by Jewbacca (The residents of Iroquois territory may not determine whether Jews may live in Jerusalem.)
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To: knews_hound

Beer is good for you ping.


4 posted on 09/02/2010 8:13:52 AM PDT by Lurker (The avalanche has begun. The pebbles no longer have a vote.)
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To: decimon

“So, have we any antibiotic beer today?”

Not on purpose. Bacteria in beer = bad beer.

I don’t know what the common types of yeast produce.


5 posted on 09/02/2010 8:15:22 AM PDT by Jewbacca (The residents of Iroquois territory may not determine whether Jews may live in Jerusalem.)
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To: decimon

I was perscribed Tetracycline by my dermatologist for acne treatment. It worked very well except now there are commercials on TV asking if I would like to participate in a class action lawsuit against the drug maker. I don’t care what the side effects are/were, it greatly improved my life.

It would have been nice to administer through beer instead of pill form.


6 posted on 09/02/2010 8:17:25 AM PDT by Crooked Constituent
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To: decimon

This is no secret. Dilluted beer (just enough to still be hydrating) was the drink of choice in 17th-18th century England, to prevent disease.


7 posted on 09/02/2010 8:20:53 AM PDT by Flightdeck (TANSTAAFL!)
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To: decimon

8 posted on 09/02/2010 8:21:30 AM PDT by frogjerk (I believe in unicorns, fairies and pro-life Democrats.)
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To: decimon

alcohol is an antiseptic..


9 posted on 09/02/2010 8:24:16 AM PDT by aeonspromise
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To: decimon; neverdem; DvdMom; grey_whiskers; SunkenCiv
Secrets? Have any of these contentious boffins ever stopped to consider that all of this may have been a happy brewing accident; that our ancestors were smart enough to recognize the results without getting into microbiology?

OTOH, our forebears (five, I raise you one) were subject to a host of mysterious plagues and epidemics on a regular basis. Maybe some of their brewing accidents had less than these happy results.

I'd be more impressed if our ancestors had figured out Malaria, or Typhus on a shorter schedule.

10 posted on 09/02/2010 8:30:23 AM PDT by Kenny Bunk (Revive The Poll Tax and Literacy Requirement for voter registration.)
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To: Crooked Constituent
I was perscribed Tetracycline by my dermatologist for acne treatment. It worked very well except now there are commercials on TV asking if I would like to participate in a class action lawsuit against the drug maker. I don’t care what the side effects are/were, it greatly improved my life.

My wife spent her early years in Communist China, where tetracycline was passed around like candy for any illness. I don't know of other side-effects, but it tends to make bones ie) teeth, gray and discolored. You can clearly identify someone in their 30's and 40's from the generation having what they call "tetracycline teeth."

11 posted on 09/02/2010 8:34:04 AM PDT by PGR88
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To: decimon

Further proof that beer is good for you.


12 posted on 09/02/2010 8:44:19 AM PDT by OneWingedShark (Q: Why am I here? A: To do Justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with my God.)
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To: decimon
Nubian Angelz


13 posted on 09/02/2010 8:47:13 AM PDT by Pylon (Tagline: (optional, printed after your name on post):)
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To: decimon; Kenny Bunk; StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; 21twelve; 240B; 24Karet; ...

· join list or digest · view topics · view or post blog · bookmark · post a topic · subscribe ·

 
Gods
Graves
Glyphs
Thanks decimon and Kenny Bunk.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.
GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother, and Ernest_at_the_Beach
 

·Dogpile · Archaeologica · Mirabilis.ca · LiveScience · Biblical Archaeology Society ·
· Discover · Bronze Age Forum · Science Daily · Science News · Eurekalert · PhysOrg ·
· Nat Geographic · Texas AM Anthro News · Yahoo Anthro & Archaeo · Google ·
· Archaeology · The Archaeology Channel · Excerpt, or Link only? · cgk's list of ping lists ·
· History topic · history keyword · archaeology keyword · paleontology keyword ·
· Science topic · science keyword · Books/Literature topic · pages keyword · ·


14 posted on 09/02/2010 4:34:12 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (Democratic Underground... matters are worse, as their latest fund drive has come up short...)
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To: decimon; Kenny Bunk; StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; 21twelve; 240B; 24Karet; ...

· join list or digest · view topics · view or post blog · bookmark · post a topic · subscribe ·

 
Gods
Graves
Glyphs
Thanks decimon and Kenny Bunk.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.
GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother, and Ernest_at_the_Beach
 

·Dogpile · Archaeologica · Mirabilis.ca · LiveScience · Biblical Archaeology Society ·
· Discover · Bronze Age Forum · Science Daily · Science News · Eurekalert · PhysOrg ·
· Nat Geographic · Texas AM Anthro News · Yahoo Anthro & Archaeo · Google ·
· Archaeology · The Archaeology Channel · Excerpt, or Link only? · cgk's list of ping lists ·
· History topic · history keyword · archaeology keyword · paleontology keyword ·
· Science topic · science keyword · Books/Literature topic · pages keyword · ·


15 posted on 09/02/2010 4:34:33 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (Democratic Underground... matters are worse, as their latest fund drive has come up short...)
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To: SunkenCiv

I wonder if this might convince my wife that beer is really medicine and good for us?


16 posted on 09/02/2010 4:38:19 PM PDT by colorado tanker
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To: decimon

Could be an interesting thread.


17 posted on 09/02/2010 5:57:31 PM PDT by SuzyQue (Remember to think.)
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To: Jewbacca; Lurker; quantim; spinestein; 5Madman2; DTogo; Horatio Gates; Ribeye; decal; B Knotts; ...

Beer and health related ping !

Beer is good for you and it makes you smart.

After all, it made Budweiser ;>)

Cheers,

knewshound


18 posted on 09/02/2010 5:58:50 PM PDT by knews_hound (Credo Quia Absurdium--take nothing seriously unless it is absurd. E. Clampus Vitus)
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To: SuzyQue
Could be an interesting thread.

Just be careful what you say to these drunkards. ;-)

19 posted on 09/02/2010 6:14:13 PM PDT by decimon
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To: decimon

Ah, but they’re healthy drunkards.

And, of course for even more reasons to drink beer, there’s this one from last week:

Study: Moderate Drinking Helps Middle-Aged and Older People Live Longer

Updated: Friday, 27 Aug 2010, 3:48 PM CDT
Published : Friday, 27 Aug 2010, 3:48 PM CDT

AUSTIN, Texas — Moderate drinking, about one to two drinks per day, reduces mortality among older and middle-aged adults, according to new research from The University of Texas at Austin.

http://www.myfoxaustin.com/dpp/news/study:-moderate-drinking-helps-middle-aged-and-older-people-live-longer-08272010-ktbcw


20 posted on 09/02/2010 6:22:01 PM PDT by SuzyQue (Remember to think.)
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To: decimon

Tetracycline? Did they also have stained teeth? Isn’t that the antibiotic that ruins children’s teeth when given in high doses?


21 posted on 09/02/2010 6:26:30 PM PDT by afraidfortherepublic (Southeast Wisconsin, Zone 4 to 5)
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To: colorado tanker

Tell her that you have to drink to avoid the wrath of God. That should work.

Did the Ancient Israelites Drink Beer?
BAR 36:05 | Sep/Oct 2010 | Michael M. Homan
Posted on 09/02/2010 6:53:45 PM PDT by SunkenCiv
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/chat/2582526/posts


22 posted on 09/02/2010 7:16:43 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (Democratic Underground... matters are worse, as their latest fund drive has come up short...)
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To: SunkenCiv

Everybody knows that Guinness is good for you.

Ben Franklin was right.


23 posted on 09/02/2010 7:17:10 PM PDT by TheOldLady (Pablo is very wily.)
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To: TheOldLady

That explains all those world records!


24 posted on 09/04/2010 5:10:05 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (Democratic Underground... matters are worse, as their latest fund drive has come up short...)
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To: Flightdeck

Didn’t they drink it warm? Cold is better!


25 posted on 09/04/2010 11:34:32 PM PDT by Silentgypsy
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