Friday December 6, 2019

New Research reveals that Water shortage may have led to demise of Maya civilisation

Within a short period of time, Mayan civilisation in Central America went from flourishing to collapsing probably due to water shortage

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1892 photograph of the Castillo at Chichen Itza, by Teoberto Maler. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

London, August 24, 2016: New Research has revealed that the irrigation technology that served the Mayans well during periods of drought may have actually made their society more vulnerable to major catastrophes.

Something really drastic must have happened to the ancient Maya at the end of the Classic Period in the ninth century.

Within a short period of time, this advanced civilisation in Central America went from flourishing to collapsing- the population dwindling rapidly and monumental stone structures were no longer being constructed.

The socio-hydrological model developed by the Gunter Bloschl-led team at Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien) tell us that droughts and water issues are one possible explanation for their demise and shows us just how vulnerable an engineered society can be.

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“It’s well-known that the Mayans built water reservoirs in preparation for dry spells,” said Linda Kuil, one of professor Gunter Bloschl’s PhD students of the Vienna Doctoral Programme on Water Resource Systems.

“With our model, we can now analyse the effects of the Mayans’ water engineering on their society. It is also possible to simulate scenarios with and without water reservoirs and compare the consequences of such decisions,” Kuil noted.

The water supply determines how much food is available and, in turn, affects the growth of the population.

As it turns out, water reservoirs can actually provide substantial relief during short periods of drought.

In the simulations without reservoirs, the Mayan population declines after a drought, whereas it continues to grow if reservoirs provide extra water.

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However, the reservoirs may also make the population more vulnerable during the prolonged dry spells.

Maya Civilisation. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Maya Civilisation. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The water management behaviour may remain the same, and the water demand per person does not decrease, but the population continues to grow.

“This may then prove fatal if another drought occurs resulting in a decline in population that is more dramatic than without reservoirs,” the authors noted.

“When it comes to scarce resources, the simplest solutions might turn out to be superficial and not always the best ones,” Kuil added.

The lessons learnt may also help us to draw important conclusions for our own future.

“We need to be careful with our natural resources. If technical measures simply deal with the shortage of resources on a superficial level and we do not adjust our own behaviour, society is left vulnerable,” the authors pointed out. (IANS)

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Researchers Develop a New Vaccine to Stop Bovine TB

The Bacille Calmette Guerin (BCG) vaccine, which is currently used to protect humans against TB and is effective in cattle, is incompatible with the PPD test

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Bovine TB
This potentially allows farmers and veterinarians to protect their animals with the new BCG vaccine, whilst still maintaining a diagnostic test that will detect Bovine TB. Pixabay

Researchers have developed a novel vaccine and complementary skin test to protect cattle against bovine tuberculosis also known as Bovine TB.

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, revealed that the research team from University of Surrey created a vaccine that is compatible with a synthetic form of the tuberculin skin test(PPD), a legally required test used for the surveillance of TB in cattle throughout the UK.

“This new vaccine provides protection against bovine TB and will help in the fight against this deadly disease which infects over 50 million cattle worldwide and is economically devastating to farmers,” said study researcher Johnjoe McFadden

Bovine TB is an infectious disease in cattle affecting their lungs, and those that test positive for the disease are culled.

The Bacille Calmette Guerin (BCG) vaccine, which is currently used to protect humans against TB and is effective in cattle, is incompatible with the PPD test.

Bovine TB
Bovine TB is an infectious disease in cattle affecting their lungs, and those that test positive for the disease are culled. Wikimedia Commons

During this study, researchers sought to make a new BCG vaccine strain that lacks some of the proteins that are shared with the pathogen Mycobacterium bovis by identifying genes that contain encoded immunogenic proteins that could be removed from BCG without affecting its ability to work as a live vaccine.

To do this, a collection of BCG strains that had each lost a single gene were injected into cows and survival rates measured. This allowed the team to identify genes that could be removed without compromising the BCG vaccine’s effectiveness.

These dispensable genes encoding immunogenic proteins were then deleted from the BCG chromosome to make a BCG-minus strain.

The deleted immunogenic proteins were then used to develop a new synthetic skin test that, like PPD, will be positive for animals that have been exposed to TB but, unlike PPD, will be negative for animals that have been vaccinated with the BCG-minus strain.

The protective efficiency of the new strain was tested in guinea pigs.

Bovine TB
Researchers have developed a novel vaccine and complementary skin test to protect cattle against bovine tuberculosis also known as Bovine TB. Pixabay

It was found that TB-infected guinea pigs tested positive for the disease using the synthetic skin test whilst guinea pigs vaccinated with the BCG-minus strain did not.

So, unlike PPD, the new skin test also works in animals that are protected from TB by BCG-minus vaccination.

ALSO READ: Kinaesthetic Ability May Improve a Person’s Golf Game

This potentially allows farmers and veterinarians to protect their animals with the new BCG vaccine, whilst still maintaining a diagnostic test that will detect TB. (IANS)