Saturday, June 23, 2018
Health

Unwrapping the secrets of mummies at MOSI in Tampa

TAMPA — In a darkened room inside the Museum of Science and Industry lie the mummified bodies of the Orlovits family: Michael, 41; his wife, Veronica, 35; and the couple's young son, Johannes, age unknown.

Their bodies were among more than 200 discovered inside a secret crypt beneath a church in Vac, Hungary, in 1994.

It wasn't immediately clear how the young Hungarian couple and their son died. But recently, using the latest advances in computerized tomography, or CT scanning, scientists have been able to determine the likely culprit: Veronica Orlovits had severe tuberculosis, and likely gave it to her husband and son. All three died around the early 19th century.

Over the past several years, CT and other scans have been performed on mummies of all ages from around the world to give doctors and scientists a better understanding of how the people lived and died. The hope is that the scans can advance current understanding of diseases such as tuberculosis, which today afflicts 8.8 million people worldwide and kills 1.4 million of them a year, according to the World Health Organization.

"It's important we understand how diseases have progressed over time," said Heather Gill-Frerking, director of science for the "Mummies of the World" exhibition, which is on display at MOSI until September.

Scientists have scanned nearly all of the 35 to 45 human mummies featured in the exhibit. In some cases, the scans suggest a cause of death. In others, they indicate that common maladies such as arthritis have plagued people through the ages. Among others on display:

• A Peruvian baby, called the Detmold child, who died sometime between 4504 and 4457 B.C. A scan determined the baby was between 8 and 10 months old and had a heart defect that may have led to its death.

• A tattooed woman from Chile, estimated to be 45 to 50 years old at the time of her death around 1240 A.D., had arthritis in her hands and lower back, though it's not why she died.

• A 30-week-old human fetus from Germany had a rare spinal malformation known as a neural tube defect.

Scanning mummies that are thousands of years old is no easy task.

"They are very fragile specimens," Gill-Frerking said. "We have to be cautious transporting them. We have to be very aware of the fact we are exposing them to radiation, which can impact future studies we want to do."

Examining them has special challenges and some limitations. Anatomy moves and shrinks over time.

Sometimes, the specimen is so old that scientists can't determine a definitive cause of death or an age at time of death. That's especially true with the Detmold Child, which has been carbon dated at more than 6,000 years old, or with many of the ancient Egyptian mummies.

The ancient Egyptian mummies, however, have helped scientists gain new clues about heart disease. Though often believed to be a modern-day disease caused by sedentary lifestyles and diets high in animal fat, scientists have found evidence of blocked arteries in the mummified bodies of Egyptian women, who by many accounts were active and ate mostly grains and vegetables.

More recent specimens such as the Orlovits family may help scientists understand the causes and spread of tuberculosis, a bacterial infection that usually affects the lungs.

Tuberculosis was common in Europe between the 16th and 18th centuries, when as much as a quarter of the population died from it. It remains one of the world's deadliest diseases, though its numbers have declined in the United States.

"Many people don't realize TB is common today," Gill-Frerking said. "In fact, it's developing and coming back stronger."

Comments
ScART program empowers people to explore their scars and express their feelings through art

ScART program empowers people to explore their scars and express their feelings through art

ST. PETERSBURGShyly, 8-year-old Annabelle Brassfield climbed atop a stool in front of a blank easel, grabbed a brush she named Scarlet and prepared to paint her scars. After three open heart surgeries for a severe congenital heart defect, she’s left ...
Published: 06/22/18
Enjoy Israeli Couscous, Swiss Chard and Peppers warm or at room temperature

Enjoy Israeli Couscous, Swiss Chard and Peppers warm or at room temperature

By Katie WorkmanIsraeli or Mediterranean couscous are tiny balls of toasted semolina pasta that plump up when cooked into toothsome, slightly less tiny balls of pasta. They make a great base for a side or salad. You can make the couscous according to...
Published: 06/22/18
‘BE AWARE’: Pasco mom posts to Facebook after son’s caterpillar sting leads to ER trip

‘BE AWARE’: Pasco mom posts to Facebook after son’s caterpillar sting leads to ER trip

ZEPHYRHILLS — The Pergolas’ Saturday morning volunteer work started like most, at a farm cleaning the property and trimming trees. Andrea Pergola, 38, stood on the driveway of the property when she heard her 15-year-old son Logan scream. At first, sh...
Published: 06/20/18
Moffitt receives $1 million donation from Richard Gonzmart

Moffitt receives $1 million donation from Richard Gonzmart

TAMPA — Runners gathered for the Gonzmart’s Father’s Day Walk and Jog where they raise money to help aid in Moffitt Cancer Center’s fight against prostate cancer. This year the event raised $110,000, but Moffitt had another surprise in store.Andrea G...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Compulsive video-game playing could be mental health problem

Compulsive video-game playing could be mental health problem

GENEVA — Obsessive video gamers know how to anticipate dangers in virtual worlds. The World Health Organization says they now should be on guard for a danger in the real world: spending too much time playing. In its latest revision to a disease class...
Published: 06/19/18
Funded by Alcohol Industry, Federal Study on Drinking Is Shut Down

Funded by Alcohol Industry, Federal Study on Drinking Is Shut Down

The extensive government trial was intended to settle an age-old question about alcohol and diet: Does a daily cocktail or beer really protect against heart attacks and stroke?To find out, the National Institutes of Health gave scientists $100 millio...
Published: 06/16/18
More than a third of American adults take prescription drugs that may increase risk of depression, study says

More than a third of American adults take prescription drugs that may increase risk of depression, study says

More than a third of American adults are taking prescription drugs, including hormones for contraception, blood pressure medications and medicines for heartburn, that carry a potential risk of depression, according to a study published in the Journal...
Published: 06/12/18
It’s time to use the stingray shuffle to avoid a nasty sting

It’s time to use the stingray shuffle to avoid a nasty sting

Courtney Bilyeu was running toward the murky water alongside a few military officers when it happened.She was an accountant for the U.S. Navy at the time. And on her way to take a swim with some coworkers in a California beach, she saw blood. The wat...
Published: 06/12/18
It’s important to wear sunglasses even on cloudy days, ophthalmologists say

It’s important to wear sunglasses even on cloudy days, ophthalmologists say

The next time you head to the drugstore to buy sunscreen, don’t forget to pick up some sunglasses, too. That’s because both products work to protect your body from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays.Wearing sunglasses for protection should not be re...
Published: 06/09/18
In St. Pete, kidney patients gather for science and solidarity

In St. Pete, kidney patients gather for science and solidarity

ST. PETERSBURG — Kidney disease doesn’t discriminate.The crowd of more than 200 patients who gathered at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort range in age from teenagers to seniors. They are of different ethnicities and come from all over the...
Published: 06/08/18