written by reader Ebola: To Parse, Perchance to Parlay


By DrKSSMDPhD, October 28, 2014

[Ed. Note: Dr. KSS writes for the Irregulars about medicine and biotech stocks. He chooses his own topics, and his words and opinions are his own.]

Fruit bats in West Africa

Careful analysis of Ebola sequences in infected Africans confirms this: the entire present Ebola outbreak emerged as a consequence of one boy in Meliandoua, in eastern Guinea, eating a piece of partially chewed fruit, found on the ground in December 2013. A fruit bat had swooped for a mango snack, but the sweet bit had sluiced from its mouth. Fruit bats are a natural reservoir for Ebola, and in a region often short of food, are also grilled or made into soup. In a week, that child and his mother were both dead from Ebola. All other cases have been transmitted human-to-human stemming from this first case. So the Ebola genome tells us.

Some years back I took a roadtrip with friends from Tokyo southwest to Kyoto. Mountains in Japan are always home to Buddhist shrines and temples, and we stopped to visit Kiyomizu-dera, a famous one perched on an unusual hillside: very steep, but not cliff-like in its drop-off. Legend is that when monks residing at Kiyomizu in earlier centuries were grappling with spiritual or emotional matters, they’d often solve the problem by taking a proverbial running jump off the hillside at Kiyomizu. If you leapt from Kiyomizu, ¬†you’d fall considerably, but because the escarpment is less than 90 degrees, there was a good chance you’d finally have your fall cushioned by the hillside and tumble the rest of the way down. Leaping from Kiyomizu was a way to determine your fate: if the gods were with you, you’d survive, and could count yourself victorious in your struggle, be it inner or outer. If the fall killed you, you weren’t meant by kismet to prevail.

The Buddhist temple and monastery at Kiyomizu-dera, Japan

The translated phrase to leap from Kiyomizu is a permanent part of Japanese lexicon, and is used by people tackling tasks they are not sure they are equal to. Young lovers, terrified of being ostracized by Japanese society if their marriage fails, may describe their wedding as a leap from Kiyomizu. A talented but self-doubting friend described his decision to pursue a Ph.D. at Tokyo University, Japan’s most elite university, as a leap from Kiyomizu.

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