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Old 10-17-2013, 08:52 PM
Ranchoth Ranchoth is offline
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Diseases that could remain infectious in a human body, for centuries?

In my ongoing efforts to prepare for an untimely demise...by booby-trapping my tomb, I'm left wondering: are there any diseases or infectious organisms that could remain dangerous in an human body in a tomb, for centuries?

I'm aiming for at least 2,000 years, if possible.

Now, environmental conditions are going to be a biggie—a shallow grave in a jungle isn't going to leave a body very long, let alone any diseases it might have had. But a prepared tomb in Egypt, or the Canadian arctic are a different story.

As for the diseases themselves—Anthrax spores and some Prions come to mind. Though I don't know if the former could remain viable that long, or if the latter would be dangerous if you merely handled or autopsied the body, and didn't eat it.

So...any ideas? I want to cast fear into those who disturb my bones, but I actually want to back it up.
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Old 10-17-2013, 09:12 PM
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Inigo Montoya Inigo Montoya is offline
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Could dust the tomb and body with Clostridium botulinum or Bacillus anthracis spores. Make the place look dusty, leave some interesting artifacts laying around that would tempt someone to blow the dust off, movie style, or otherwise get the stuff ingested.
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Old 10-18-2013, 01:30 AM
OldGuy OldGuy is offline
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Perhaps a prion disease like Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease or Fatal Familial Insomnia. I really don't know how long a prion would last, but they're not alive so they might well last a good ling time.
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Old 10-18-2013, 02:09 AM
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smithsb smithsb is online now
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Could you use some radioactive dust (polonium or plutonium)? Not an organism but radiation poisoning would meet your requirement for much longer than the 2K years.
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Old 10-18-2013, 02:33 AM
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eschereal eschereal is offline
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Excellent idea! The radiation from the plutonium dust would also help to preserve the corpse, right?
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Old 10-18-2013, 08:06 AM
HoneyBadgerDC HoneyBadgerDC is offline
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what about anthrax?
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Old 10-18-2013, 09:36 AM
MikeS MikeS is offline
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A few years back, scientists exhumed the body of a woman who died in the 1918 flu pandemic and was subsequently buried under the permafrost. They were able to successfully extract enough viral RNA to sequence the virus's genome, but it doesn't sound like the virus itself was viable, even after less than 100 years. So a flu virus is probably out.
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Old 10-18-2013, 10:53 AM
lost4life lost4life is offline
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I don't have an answer, but I just wanted to say I like the way you think.

Have you considered a curse? I'm not sure where to get one, but I'm pretty sure they don't expire.
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Old 10-18-2013, 11:03 AM
Kizarvexius Kizarvexius is offline
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My medical knowledge could probably be fully transcribed on a matchbook cover, but bacteria and viruses are living things, with a limited life expectancy. In order for them to be viable after any extended period of time, would they not need to continue the normal life cycle of feeding and reproducing?

Radioactive materials or poisons that would not degrade over time would seem to me the only possible means of creating the proposed trap.
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Old 10-18-2013, 11:25 AM
Andy Andy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kizarvexius View Post
My medical knowledge could probably be fully transcribed on a matchbook cover, but bacteria and viruses are living things....
Calling viruses living things is contentious.
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Old 10-18-2013, 11:29 AM
leahcim leahcim is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kizarvexius View Post
My medical knowledge could probably be fully transcribed on a matchbook cover, but bacteria and viruses are living things, with a limited life expectancy. In order for them to be viable after any extended period of time, would they not need to continue the normal life cycle of feeding and reproducing?
Bacteria are living things that can feed and reproduce independent of a host, but viruses are not -- outside of a host they don't do anything.

Which is not to say one is more stable than the other. Viruses can be very fragile outside of their hosts and bacteria can form spores that are very resistant to poor environments. Just being a pedant on that point.
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Old 10-18-2013, 12:58 PM
Senegoid Senegoid is offline
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If your objective is to get everybody to leave your tomb alone, you would need to post warning signs or messages that the grave-robbers would see before they dig in.

Your bigger problem would be, how to do so in a language that you are certain will still be understood 2000 or more years from now.

This is a bona-fide real-life problem, in particular with respect to posting warning signs around nuclear waste dumps that will be hazardous for thousands and thousands of years into the future. Serious scientists seriously attempt to find ways to post warnings what will be understandable for a long long time.
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Old 10-18-2013, 01:08 PM
Antigen Antigen is offline
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I'm thinking that there must be some fungi that would fit the bill here, but I'm not enough of an expert to know which ones would stick around long enough, dormant or otherwise.
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