My younger readers may not remember a time when there was no HIV virus in the world. But for those of us who are a little older, we can remember how HIV suddenly showed up, seemingly out of nowhere. Of course, many people didn't worry about it too much because it seemed to affect only certain populations -- gay men and heroin addicts. Many others of us may not have been in those populations, but still we worried about it. Anything communicable like that can spread to larger populations.
So where did it come from? Well, scientists have generally come to the conclusion that HIV came from chimpanzees. And the rest of our population conjured up the image of somebody first having sex with a chimpanzee. And while such fantasies are interesting to think about, the truth is, or at least what scientists believe is that the virus entered humans from eating chimpanzee meat. It's called bush meat and trade in bush meat is illegal, but it happens. It happens because in Africa, bush meat is considered a delicacy.
And there's an active trade in bush meat right here in the United States. It comes into our country inside of suitcases of people traveling into the country as well as within packages mailed into the country. Not only is it destroying the chimpanzee and the monkey populations in Africa, but it's believed to be the source of the HIV virus, which causes AIDS.
So, AIDS did not start in gay men's bath houses in San Francisco. Nor did it start with a dirty needle used to inject heroin in an addict. It started from eating meat -- specifically, chimpanzee meat.
What other diseases have come to us from animals. Quite a few if you pay attention to what scientists tell us. Just a couple weeks ago, a study was released showing that seal eating may have been responsible for tuberculosis in ancient South American populations. Measles and smallpox came to us originally from cattle consumption. Today, of course, we have mad cow disease to worry about when eating cattle -- for those who do eat cows that is.
We all know that the flu comes from animals like pigs, ducks and chickens. Birds carry malaria germs. The current issue with Ebola is believed to have originally come to us from fruit bats.
Interesting isn't it? All these diseases that come to us from different animals and not one plant?
But it gets more interesting because not a single disease comes from gorillas, and yet people have consumed gorillas before. So, what gives with that? Well, interestingly, gorillas have been observed by scientists to actually seek out different plant foods at different times. Not just any plants, but the plants that gorillas search out are plants that are known to have medicinal properties. Of course, man knows about these medicinal properties because we have studied them and communicated with each other. Gorillas on the other hand -- well, they just seem to know naturally.
When looking at the world of medicine, there are a lot of medicines that come from plants. While medical antibiotics are new to mankind in the last hundred years, the fungi from which antibiotics come have been around forever. In ancient times, mushrooms served as the earliest antibiotics. And mushrooms are still good to eat today.
So, what's the moral of all this? To me, it seems to suggest that diseases come from animals and medicines come from plants. So, which one would you rather eat?