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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 9th December 2016 > A PLAGUE ON BOTH YOUR SPECIES

A PLAGUE ON BOTH YOUR SPECIES

Leprosy passed from humans to squirrels long ago and could come back

LEPROSY, that ancient, disfiguring disease thought to have been eradicated hundreds of years ago, has been hiding out in Britain, in a most unlikely place. A recent study published in the journal Science says researchers found two species of the bacterium infecting red squirrels in Ireland, Scotland and several isles off the English coast. On one of them, Brownsea Island, they discovered a medieval strain nearly identical to that found in a skeleton buried some 730 years ago in Winchester, about 50 miles from Brownsea. “It is remarkable that [the bacterium] has persisted for centuries undetected,” wrote Roland Brosch of France’s Pasteur Institute in a commentary accompanying the study. He added that those looking to control the disease must accept the possibility that there are undiscovered sources of leprosy “existing under our noses.”

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THE ROBOT ECONOMY Next time you stop for gas at a self-serve pump, say hello to the robot in front of you. Its life story can tell you a lot about the robot economy roaring toward us like an EF5 tornado on the prairie. Yeah, your automated gas pump killed a lot of jobs over the years, but its biography might give you hope that the coming wave of automation driven by artificial intelligence (AI) will turn out better for almost all of us than a lot of people seem to think.
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