Ancient Brewers Tapped Antibiotic Secrets

There should be an image here!A chemical analysis of the bones of ancient Nubians shows that they were regularly consuming tetracycline, most likely in their beer. The finding is the strongest evidence yet that the art of making antibiotics, which officially dates to the discovery of penicillin in 1928, was common practice nearly 2,000 years ago.

The research, led by Emory anthropologist George Armelagos and medicinal chemist Mark Nelson of Paratek Pharmaceuticals, Inc., is published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

“We tend to associate drugs that cure diseases with modern medicine,” Armelagos says. “But it’s becoming increasingly clear that this prehistoric population was using empirical evidence to develop therapeutic agents. I have no doubt that they knew what they were doing.”

Armelagos is a bioarcheologist and an expert on prehistoric and ancient diets. In 1980, he discovered what appeared to be traces of tetracycline in human bones from Nubia dated between A.D. 350 and 550, populations that left no written record. The ancient Nubian kingdom was located in present-day Sudan, south of ancient Egypt.

Armelagos and his fellow researchers later tied the source of the antibiotic to the Nubian beer. The grain used to make the fermented gruel contained the soil bacteria streptomyces, which produces tetracycline. A key question was whether only occasional batches of the ancient beer contained tetracycline, which would indicate accidental contamination with the bacteria.

Nelson, a leading expert in tetracycline and other antibiotics, became interested in the project after hearing Armelagos speak at a conference. “I told him to send me some mummy bones, because I had the tools and the expertise to extract the tetracycline,” Nelson says. “It’s a nasty and dangerous process. I had to dissolve the bones in hydrogen fluoride, the most dangerous acid on the planet.”

The results stunned Nelson. “The bones of these ancient people were saturated with tetracycline, showing that they had been taking it for a long time,” he says. “I’m convinced that they had the science of fermentation under control and were purposely producing the drug.”

Even the tibia and skull belonging to a 4-year-old were full of tetracycline, suggesting that they were giving high doses to the child to try and cure him of illness, Nelson says.

Even the tibia and skull belonging to a 4-year-old were full of tetracycline, suggesting that they were giving high doses to the child to try and cure him of illness, Nelson says.

The first of the modern day tetracyclines was discovered in 1948. It was given the name auereomycin, after the Latin word “aerous,” which means containing gold. “Streptomyces produce a golden colony of bacteria, and if it was floating on a batch of beer, it must have look pretty impressive to ancient people who revered gold,” Nelson theorizes.

The ancient Egyptians and Jordanians used beer to treat gum disease and other ailments, Armelagos says, adding that the complex art of fermenting antibiotics was probably widespread in ancient times, and handed down through generations.

The chemical confirmation of tetracycline in ancient bones is not the end of the story for Armelagos. He remains enthused after more than three decades on the project. “This opens up a whole new area of research,” he says. “Now we’re going to compare the amount of tetracycline in the bones, and bone formation over time, to determine the dosage that the ancient Nubians were getting.”

[Photo above by dan taylor / CC BY-ND 2.0]

Beverly Clark @ Emory University

[awsbullet:Sociable History Beer]

Women Who Drink Beer More Likely To Develop Psoriasis

There should be an image here!Regular beer — but not light beer or other types of alcohol — appears to be associated with an increased risk of developing psoriasis, according to a report posted online today that will be published in the December print issue of Archives of Dermatology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

“Psoriasis is a common immune-mediated skin disease,” the authors write as background information in the article. “The association between alcohol consumption and increased risk of psoriasis onset and psoriasis worsening has long been suspected. For example, individuals with psoriasis drink more alcohol than individuals without psoriasis, and alcohol intake may exacerbate psoriasis severity.”

For other diseases, type of alcoholic beverage has been shown to influence risk — for instance, beer confers a larger risk for gout than wine or spirits. To evaluate the association between different types of alcohol and psoriasis risk, Abrar A. Qureshi, M.D., M.P.H., of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, assessed data from 82,869 women who were age 27 to 44 years in 1991. The women, participants in the Nurses’ Health Study II, reported the amount and type of alcohol they consumed on biennial questionnaires. They also reported whether they had received a diagnosis of psoriasis.

Through 2005, 1,150 cases of psoriasis developed, 1,069 of which were used for analysis. Compared with women who did not drink alcohol, the risk of psoriasis was 72 percent greater among women who had an average of 2.3 drinks per week or more. When beverages were assessed by type, there was an association between non-light beer drinking and psoriasis, such that women who drank five or more beers per week had a risk for the condition that was 1.8 times higher. Light beer, red wine, white wine and liquor were not associated with psoriasis risk.

When only confirmed psoriasis cases — those in which women provided more details about their condition on a seven-item self-assessment — were considered, the risk for psoriasis was 2.3 times higher for women who drank five or more beers per week than women who did not drink beer.

“Non-light beer was the only alcoholic beverage that increased the risk for psoriasis, suggesting that certain non-alcoholic components of beer, which are not found in wine or liquor, may play an important role in new-onset psoriasis,” the authors write. “One of these components may be the starch source used in making beer. Beer is one of the few non-distilled alcoholic beverages that use a starch source for fermentation, which is commonly barley.” Barley and other starches contain gluten, to which some individuals with psoriasis show a sensitivity. Lower amounts of grain are used to make light beer as compared with non-light beer, potentially explaining why light beer was not associated with psoriasis risk, they note.

“Women with a high risk of psoriasis may consider avoiding higher intake of non-light beer,” the authors conclude. “We suggest conducting further investigations into the potential mechanisms of non-light beer inducing new-onset psoriasis.”

[Photo above by a4gpa / CC BY-ND 2.0]

Kevin Myron @ JAMA and Archives Journals

[awsbullet:Ray Daniels beer]

Alcohol Consumption Lowers Risk Of Developing Several Arthritic Conditions

There should be an image here!Alcohol consumption is associated with a significantly reduced risk of developing several arthritic conditions including Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), Osteoarthritis (OA), reactive arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and spondylarthropathy, according to results of a new study presented today at EULAR 2010, the Annual Congress of the European League Against Rheumatism in Rome, Italy. Regardless of the type of arthritis, all patients reported drinking less alcohol than controls, leading to questions around the inflammatory pathways behind the effects seen.

In this Dutch study, alcohol consumption was associated with a significantly lower risk of developing RA (Odds Ratio (OR) 0.27 (0.22-0.34), Osteoarthritis (OR 0.31, (0.16-0.62), spondylarthropathy (OR 0.34, 0.17-0.67), psoriatic arthritis (OR 0.38, 0.23-0.62), and reactive arthritis (OR 0.27, 0.14-0.52). A particularly protective effect was shown in the RA population with the presence of Anti-Citrullinated Protein Antibodies (ACPA, potentially important surrogate markers for diagnosis and prognosis in RA), (OR 0.59, 0.30-0.99).

Interestingly, researchers also found that the degree of systemic inflammation in patients was shown to increase as the amount of alcohol consumed decreased (p=0.001) and that there was no dose response relationship (low 0.12 (0.08-0.18), moderate 0.46 (0.36-0.59), high 0.17 (0.12-0.25)) between the amount of alcohol consumed and the risk of arthritis development. Researchers hypothesise that there could be two explanations for this inflammatory effect; either that patients with more severe disease activity consume less alcohol due to associated changes in their lifestyle, or that the presence of alcohol in the system could protect against the development of systemic inflammation.

“We know from previous research that alcohol consumption may confer a protective effect against developing RA, our data have shown that this effect may apply to other arthritic conditions too,” said Dr Annekoos Leonoor Huidekoper, Leiden University Medical Centre, Netherlands and lead author of the study. “What intrigues us now is that the findings related to systemic inflammation, further research into the inflammatory pathways involved is needed to determine the exact nature of the association.”

Patients with arthritic conditions (n=997; RA n=651, reactive arthritis, spondylaropathy or psoriatic arthritis n=273, osteoarthritis n=73) were enrolled from the Leiden Early Arthritis Cohort and healthy controls (n=6,874) recruited from the Multiple Environmental and Genetic Assessment of risk factors for venous thrombosis study. Alcohol consumption was recorded at baseline (units per week), and the effect of alcohol consumption on risk of disease development was analysed by univariate and multivariate logistic regression (statistical tests that predict the probability of an event occurring). Odds ratios and confidence intervals (95%) were adjusted for age, sex, Body Mass Index (BMI) and smoking.

Professor Paul Emery, President of EULAR and arc Professor of Rheumatology, Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Leeds, UK said: “These are very interesting findings but we should assert the need for caution in the interpretation of these data. Alcohol should be consumed in moderation, with consideration for local public health recommendations. A number of social and medical problems are associated with increased consumption of alcohol; therefore any positive implications of its use must be understood within the wider health context.”

Rory Berrie @ European League Against Rheumatism

[Photo above by Robert Glen Fogarty / CC BY-ND 2.0]

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1 In 10 Revelers Plan On Consuming More Than 40 Units Of Alcohol In A Single Evening

There should be an image here!Using measures of blood alcohol concentration, self-assessed and observer-assessed drunkenness, a study in the North West of England has confirmed the overwhelming prevalence of extreme alcohol consumption in UK nightlife. Researchers writing in BioMed Central’s open access journal Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention and Policy interviewed and ‘breathalyzed’ revellers, finding that one in ten intended to drink more than 40 units by home time, with those using extended licensing hours having the most extreme alcoholic intentions.

Mark Bellis, from Liverpool John Moores University, worked with a team of researchers to carry out the study on 214 people in the city centers of Chester, Liverpool and Manchester. He said, “The UK has a well established culture of heavy drinking in nightlife settings. Despite this, there is relatively little information available on drunkenness with laws restricting sales of alcohol to drunk individuals being largely ignored. Using new techniques we examined the amounts people had drunk at interview and planned to continue to drink before going home. Combined with blood alcohol concentration measurement this provides a method for examining even extreme levels of alcohol consumption without exposing researchers to highly inebriated consumers who cannot remember how much they have drunk.”

Just over half (51%) of the people who reported feeling drunk at interview said they intended to drink more alcohol that night. The researchers also found that when individuals were informed about their blood alcohol level, it was more likely to encourage them to drink (nearly 1 in 4) than to reduce their alcohol consumption that night (less than 1 in 25). Bellis said, “Commercial use of breathalyzers to encourage individuals to drink more has already been attempted in some bars in the UK. As such technologies become more easily accessible there is a real danger it will further increase alcohol consumption.”

Speaking about these results, Bellis added, “Cities in the UK have adopted costly nightlife policing strategies aimed at protecting patrons from immediate alcohol-related harms by controlling violence and other anti-social behavior. Implementing safety measures in nightlife environments is crucial to protecting public health, yet without reasonable efforts to reduce nightlife alcohol consumption, such measures may simply result in safer environments for drunks.”

Graeme Baldwin @ BioMed Central

[Photo above by Stefan Le Du / CC BY-ND 2.0]

[awsbullet:binge drinking]

How Strong Is Your Booze?

There should be an image here!Both legitimate brewers and distillers — and authorities on the track of illicit alcohol from home stills — will soon have a helping hand. Measurement experts have unveiled a portable device to determine the strength of alcoholic drinks quickly and easily, almost anywhere. Published in the open access Chemistry Central Journal, the researchers show that their technique is just as accurate, and more sophisticated, than widely used lab-based methods.

Along with his colleagues, Dirk Lachenmeier of testing agency Chemisches und Veterinäruntersuchungsamt (CVUA) in Karlsruhe, Germany, decided to use a simple, patented multiple-beam infrared sensor combined with a flow-through cell for automated alcohol analysis. His team tested the device, which is portable to allow for on-site measurements, on a range of alcoholic samples.

Their tests on 260 different alcoholic drinks showed that the flow-through infrared device was much easier to handle than typical reference procedures, while time-consuming sample preparation steps such as distillation weren’t necessary. Their sensor was equal to or better than current densimetric or Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) methods: repeatability, as determined in six different wine samples, was 0.05% vol and the relative standard deviation was below 0.2%. They also tested wines partway through the fermentation process, and unrecorded (non-commercial or illicit) alcohol samples, with good results. The test took less than a minute per drink.

“The device gives the opportunity for mobile on-site control in the context of labeling control of wine, beer and spirits, the process monitoring of fermentations, or the evaluation of unrecorded alcohols,” says Lachenmeier. He adds that the device can also be used easily in developing country settings, with results that compare well to a more sophisticated lab set up.

Only beers and other sparkling drinks need more time-consuming preparation, to first remove the fizz, which can interfere with measurements.

The authors say that not only does unrecorded alcohol account for a quarter of all alcohol consumed worldwide, but in most cases, “not even the most basic chemical composition such as alcoholic strength is known for these beverages.”

Ever since French chemist Gay-Lussac’s work on alcohol-water mixtures, scientists have measured alcoholic strength by volume (% vol) using distillation and then a pycnometer to measure the liquid’s density. Infrared spectroscopy is a more recent, popular method, but typically requires expensive equipment, and complicated calibration.

Charlotte Webber @ BioMed Central

[Photo above by Federica Marchi / CC BY-ND 2.0]

[awsbullet:alcohol proof]


I’ll admit that I don’t know anything about wine. I’ve tried to enjoy it, but for some reason I just can’t get into it right now. Maybe my taste for wine will be developed some years down the road, however, I’ll stick with beer for the time being. Yes, beer is a different story. I enjoy many different types of beer, but you won’t find me looking at wine or swirling a glass of it. In an effort to counteract my bad feelings for wine, I’ve tried to do a little bit of research online about different types of wine and what makes a good wine. I’m learning a lot, and one thing is for sure – the online communities of wine lovers take their alcoholic beverage of choice very seriously. Vinivino is one such community that has an obsession with wine. 

As a user, you can list all of the wines that you have on your account, and this can be a useful feature for people that actually have more than just one bottle of wine at any given time. You’ll also be able to review wines that you’ve tasted, but don’t think that this is only a service for selfish wine aficionados. By reading reviews and recommendations from the Vinivino community, you’ll learn a lot and possibly find that undiscovered wine that makes you appreciate wine even more.


I’ve tried to get into wine before, but when it comes to alcoholic beverages, I prefer beer (in moderation, of course). For a lot of wine drinkers, wine isn’t just something that you buy and drink in the same way that you buy a soda and finish it in three gulps. Instead, wine is meant to be experienced, enjoyed, and appreciated. There are so many subtleties between different types of wines, and you really have to learn about them if you wish to carry on a conversation with a wine aficionado. Snooth will give you some help, but more than anything, it’ll provide you with some tasty wine recommendations in a social way.

Search for whatever you’re interested in and then filter the results to better match what you want. The site contains information on hundreds of thousands of wines and millions of reviews from professionals and regular people like you and I, so if you can’t find anything that you like here, then you truly must be a wine snob. Once you’ve rated at least five wines, you’ll begin to receive personalized wine recommendations which could prove to be useful the next time that you wish to purchase a new bottle.


Are there any wine aficionados among us? I may still be too young to drink alcohol in the United States, but I’ve certainly been around people who enjoy fine wine. Having a glass of wine at night isn’t just a hobby for some people – it’s a way of life. It’s amazing to observe the fact that a beverage can inspire so much passion, a sense of community, and derivative makes and models. Whether you swirl it, sniff it, sip it, and then spit it into a bucket or chug a glass of it like there’s no tomorrow, how you drink it is up to you and you alone. To expand your wine drinking horizons, visit Cork’d.

Not only can you catalog, rate, and review wines in your own Wine Journal, but you can also find out about new wines that you’d like to try, and then keep track of these for later consumption. Wine drinking has a reputation for sometimes being a social activity, and this is reflected on Cork’d because you can discover what your friends are drinking, and this may encourage you to join them for a taste test.

[tags]Cork’d, Wine, Wine Tasting, Alcohol, United States, Fine Wine, Wine Aficionados[/tags]

Holiday Party Frenzy

Put in the orders for a keg of egg nog and those snazzy corporate gifts! Four out of five companies are planning to spread that holiday cheer with office parties… and not only that, they’re planning to spend more this year.

According to a survey of human resource executives released today by a Chicago-based outplacement consultancy, 79% of companies are planning to host holiday parties this year. Challenger, Gray and Christmas (topically named, but no relation to yours truly, AFAIK) reports that this year’s holiday party plans are in line with last year’s tally, when 80% planned those festive gigs we all know and sometimes avoid.

Corporate profits are up and companies are spending.

Challenger reports that almost one third of the companies surveyed will spend more on their parties than last year, with an average party budget increase of 16%. Scrooge can hardly be found. A mere 6% of firms plan to slash the amount of money spent on their parties.

Get ready to dust off your party hats, pull the plug on the copier, break out the breathalyzer, and lock the supply room. Just don’t forget to call a cab. According to the survey, 60% of employers are planning to provide alcohol… up from 54% last year.

[tags]holiday party, corporate gifts, designated driver, alcohol, breathalyzer[/tags]


Even though I’m still too young to legally drink in the United States, I’m always amazed by the amount of drink recipes that exist. Imaginations can definitely run wild when concocting “enhanced” beverages, and some of the ingredients that I’ve seen used are both creative and surprising. Assuming that you do drink alcohol, it’s nice to have a repertoire of drink recipes under your belt so that you can impress people with your knowledge of the sauce. Of course, you have to start somewhere, and Droogle is a great place to do that.
Continue reading “Droogle”