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Dead WWI soldier helps fight disease

Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - 01:32

A soldier who died of dysentery in World War One is helping today's scientists study the deadly disease, and the way it has evolved to survive the antibiotics used to treat it. Suzannah Butcher reports.

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TV: No access all domestic and international channels distributed in UK & Eire on Sky/Virgin/Freeview; BBC/BSKYB GROUP : No access worldwide any media; INTERNET: No access.co.uk web sites and all websites principally targeted at the UK and/or Eire; MOBILE: No access worldwide; NO USE AFTER 30 DAYS ON ALL PLATFORMS - for re-use contact sales[at]itnsource.com**~ There are no photographs of Private Ernest Cable who died of dysentery on the battlefield in World War One. And while he was just one of millions who lost their lives, Cable left a legacy which is helping today's scientists tackle the same disease which killed him. Medics who treated Cable took a sample of the Shigella bacterium which had infected him. It became the very first sample to be submitted to a national archive. Nearly 100 years later scientists are using new technology to genetically decode it, says Julie Russell from Public Health England. (SOUNDBITE) (English) HEAD OF PUBLIC HEALTH ENGLAND'S CULTURE COLLECTION, JULIE RUSSELL, SAYING: "That bacterium will help us perhaps in the future to be able to develop a vaccine for this sort of illness, or perhaps understand more about antimicrobial resistance which is very important to us today." Dysentery still kills hundreds of thousands of people each year, and it's becoming harder to treat. Dr Kate Baker is from the Wellcome Trust which studies diseases that have an impact on global health. (SOUNDBITE) (English) GENOMICIST AT THE WELLCOME TRUST, DR KATE BAKER, SAYING: "In World War One Shigella was the number one cause of diarrheal disease in the trenches and actually today it's still one of the top causes of diarrheal disease in children under five in developing nations." She says Cable's sample is helping in the arms race between bacteria and humans. (SOUNDBITE) (English) GENOMICIST AT THE WELLCOME TRUST, DR KATE BAKER, SAYING: "And what we see when we look at these snapshots, during the hundred years, is that the bacteria is evolving against exactly what it is that we're doing to control it." The Great War might be over, but Private Cable is still doing his part to fight an enemy which continues to threaten lives around the world.

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Dead WWI soldier helps fight disease

Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - 01:32