James Nestor - Breathing Woo

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James Nestor - Breathing Woo

Post by headshot » Mon Dec 27, 2021 9:37 am

Start the Week on Radio 4 this morning had two brilliant scientists (professor Theresa Lamb of Oxford/AstraZeneca and Professor Catherine Noakes - a leading ventilation and respiratory disease specialist).

They also had “scientific journalist” James Nestor who has written a book on nose breathing and cited no real evidence and made statements like “we’ve forgotten the breathing tricks our ancestors used to prevent disease” and also claimed that breathing through the nose means that the body stops pathogens entering our systems.

It sounded a lot like woo. Is my skepticism well placed??

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Re: James Nestor - Breathing Woo

Post by Lew Dolby » Mon Dec 27, 2021 9:56 am

'cos breathing through the nose will obviously stop that untreated cut from getting infected. !!!
WOULD CUSTOMERS PLEASE REFRAIN FROM SITTING ON THE COUNTER BY THE BACON SLICER - AS WE'RE GETTING A LITTLE BEHIND IN OUR ORDERS.

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Re: James Nestor - Breathing Woo

Post by Allo V Psycho » Mon Dec 27, 2021 10:28 am

I have a faint memory that the combination of nasal hair and nasal mucus offer a bacteriostatic filter system, but I'm cooking, so can't look it up at the moment.

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Re: James Nestor - Breathing Woo

Post by nezumi » Mon Dec 27, 2021 3:26 pm

Allo V Psycho wrote:
Mon Dec 27, 2021 10:28 am
I have a faint memory that the combination of nasal hair and nasal mucus offer a bacteriostatic filter system, but I'm cooking, so can't look it up at the moment.
They do, as per A-Level Biology circa 2000, but not to the extent that they'd protect anyone from viruses and also argument from antiquity fallacy. IIRC Ancient people did it =/= it works.

I call massive hairy bollocks of the gigantickest order on it.
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Re: James Nestor - Breathing Woo

Post by shpalman » Mon Dec 27, 2021 3:31 pm

I'm actually curious, but not so curious as to actually look up the research properly or anything, to know if viruses are a relatively recent problem in human prehistory.

I mean, most of our viral pathogens have hopped over from animals right? So would that have happened back before humans had significant interaction with live herd animals and before humans lived together in large enough groups?
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Re: James Nestor - Breathing Woo

Post by dyqik » Mon Dec 27, 2021 4:25 pm

shpalman wrote:
Mon Dec 27, 2021 3:31 pm
I'm actually curious, but not so curious as to actually look up the research properly or anything, to know if viruses are a relatively recent problem in human prehistory.

I mean, most of our viral pathogens have hopped over from animals right? So would that have happened back before humans had significant interaction with live herd animals and before humans lived together in large enough groups?
I'm sure hunter-gatherer humans still encountered herds of animals that carry zoonotic viruses. And they would have also had a much more diverse range of protein sources, which means exposure to wider ranges of species.

And mosquitos carrying viruses like dengue, West Nile, yellow fever, etc. between species.

But obviously, connectivity was much lower, so you don't get nearly as many generations for a virus to adapt before the whole group has been infected, so there's much less chance of viruses adapting to humans.

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Re: James Nestor - Breathing Woo

Post by jdc » Mon Dec 27, 2021 7:11 pm

shpalman wrote:
Mon Dec 27, 2021 3:31 pm

I mean, most of our viral pathogens have hopped over from animals right?
I've wondered how many of our viruses came from animals but I've been too lazy to look into it. This article reckons More than 2/3 of human viruses can also infect non-human hosts... Many specialist human viruses also have mammalian or avian origins. which I assume means animal-origin viruses make up at least 2/3 of human viruses? And later on:
The remaining viruses, as far as we are aware, only naturally infect humans (these are sometimes referred to as ‘specialist’ human pathogens [27]). Some of these (e.g. hepatitis B) may have co-evolved with humans over very long time periods [28]; others (e.g. HIV-1) have much more recent origins [29]. Some of both kinds are believed to have originated in other mammal or bird species [30], including: HIV-1 (derived from a simian immunodeficiency virus found in chimpanzees); HIV-2 (sooty mangabeys); severe acute respiratory syndrome virus (SARS; horseshoe bats); hepatitis B, human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV)-1 and -2, dengue and yellow fever (all primates); human coronavirus OC43, measles, mumps and smallpox (all livestock); and influenza A (wildfowl). However, we do not know the origins of the majority of specialist human viruses, a gap in knowledge that has prompted calls for an ‘origins initiative’
So that's that, then. Unless someone's found out more in the last 9 years.
shpalman wrote:
Mon Dec 27, 2021 3:31 pm
So would that have happened back before humans had significant interaction with live herd animals and before humans lived together in large enough groups?
This https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_hi ... prehistory has smallpox (probably descended from the poxviruses of rodents) down as infecting humans 11,000 years ago and says "sporadic outbreaks probably occurred in each generation. In about 9000 BC, when many people began to settle on the fertile flood plains of the River Nile, the population became dense enough for the virus to maintain a constant presence because of the high concentration of susceptible people.[7] Other epidemics of viral diseases that depend on large concentrations of people, such as mumps, rubella and polio, also first occurred at this time.[8]". Also references domestication of wild animals 10,000 years ago and says "Other, more ancient, viruses have been less of a threat. Herpes viruses first infected the ancestors of modern humans over 80 million years ago." I wondered if that was a mistake and it was meant to be 80,000 but apparently herpes viruses have been infecting us and our ancestors for millions of years: https://health.ucsd.edu/news/releases/p ... nzees.aspx

So I guess we had sporadic outbreaks of various viruses until we learned to domesticate animals, live together in large groups, and create whopping great epidemics?

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Re: James Nestor - Breathing Woo

Post by Millennie Al » Thu Dec 30, 2021 5:51 am

shpalman wrote:
Mon Dec 27, 2021 3:31 pm
I'm actually curious, but not so curious as to actually look up the research properly or anything, to know if viruses are a relatively recent problem in human prehistory.
Viruses predate multicellular life, so they have been a problem for every species that we could count as human. Of course, it's living in larger groups that makes viruses kill larger numbers of people.

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Re: James Nestor - Breathing Woo

Post by nezumi » Thu Dec 30, 2021 8:51 am

Millennie Al wrote:
Thu Dec 30, 2021 5:51 am
shpalman wrote:
Mon Dec 27, 2021 3:31 pm
I'm actually curious, but not so curious as to actually look up the research properly or anything, to know if viruses are a relatively recent problem in human prehistory.
Viruses predate multicellular life, so they have been a problem for every species that we could count as human. Of course, it's living in larger groups that makes viruses kill larger numbers of people.
Viruses have been a problem for all animals cellular life since ever, as far as I can tell. If you just look into any genome you want, bacteria, human, worm... whatever... you'll find fragments of viral RNA all over the place, mostly from retroviruses that have somehow inserted themselves in the genome and then decided*, nah, it's cozy here, I'll not bother doing much - I'll just hang out for a few millennia.

Throughout human history we've lived in small communities but there has definitely been trade as far back as the stone age. Trade** is the vector viruses spread by. So in the past I would expect a lot of isolated zoonotic viruses infecting small family groups, and those that are virulent enough and have a long enough incubation time would have spread to other groups via trade. However, they probably wouldn't normally get much further then a hundred miles or so because trade was so damn slow.

In more recent history, we see plagues and pandemics mostly when humanity has a strong level of trade across wider areas than purely local, these end with the pathogen either petering out on its own, becoming an endemic but mild disease or just flat out killing everyone who is susceptible.

So I say yes, viruses have been a major problem for all cellular life ever since the beginning of cellular life. In fact, I'm confident enough in my opinion that I'm going to go out on a limb here and propose that viruses have been around for as long as or even longer than cellular life. There's no reason they couldn't have started out parasitizing the random bits of genetic material in the "primordial soup".

* YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN, PEDANT!

** By which I mean the movement of individual humans to other areas with groups of humans. Trade would have been the main reason to travel back then - why walk 18 miles to the next but one village if you don't bother taking anything to sell?
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Re: James Nestor - Breathing Woo

Post by bjn » Thu Dec 30, 2021 11:30 am

Viruses need a host cell to replicate in, so I’m not sure how they can predate cellular life. Certainly multi-cellular life given that the lil buggers infect everything from archaea to elephants.

I’m not sure that whatever the first replicator floating about in primordial ooze was, but it can’t be termed a virus.

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Re: James Nestor - Breathing Woo

Post by shpalman » Thu Dec 30, 2021 12:32 pm

Yes I know bacteria have phages. Animals all have immune systems.

Also I know there have been plagues since the bronze age or whenever.

I wanted to discuss infections during hundreds of thousands of years of prehistory over which they would have had time to make a difference to the human phenotype, specifically the nose of it, which is what the OP is about. Back when we still lived in tribes of ~160 and didn't mingle with herd animals for longer than it took to kill one.

Humans have only had time to develop a couple of genetic changes to more recent pathogens as far as I know, but then those particular genetic changes are only the studied ones because of the problems they can cause.
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Re: James Nestor - Breathing Woo

Post by jimbob » Thu Dec 30, 2021 1:30 pm

shpalman wrote:
Thu Dec 30, 2021 12:32 pm
Yes I know bacteria have phages. Animals all have immune systems.

Also I know there have been plagues since the bronze age or whenever.

I wanted to discuss infections during hundreds of thousands of years of prehistory over which they would have had time to make a difference to the human phenotype, specifically the nose of it, which is what the OP is about. Back when we still lived in tribes of ~160 and didn't mingle with herd animals for longer than it took to kill one.

Humans have only had time to develop a couple of genetic changes to more recent pathogens as far as I know, but then those particular genetic changes are only the studied ones because of the problems they can cause.

There are several others. Not just sickle cell but thalassemias seem to occur in malaria belts. Also there is the possible impact of the Black Death on European populations.
Have you considered stupidity as an explanation

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Re: James Nestor - Breathing Woo

Post by Grumble » Thu Dec 30, 2021 2:46 pm

headshot wrote:
Mon Dec 27, 2021 9:37 am
Start the Week on Radio 4 this morning had two brilliant scientists (professor Theresa Lamb of Oxford/AstraZeneca and Professor Catherine Noakes - a leading ventilation and respiratory disease specialist).

They also had “scientific journalist” James Nestor who has written a book on nose breathing and cited no real evidence and made statements like “we’ve forgotten the breathing tricks our ancestors used to prevent disease” and also claimed that breathing through the nose means that the body stops pathogens entering our systems.

It sounded a lot like woo. Is my skepticism well placed??
His book was listed for the Royal Society book prize
A bit churlish

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Re: James Nestor - Breathing Woo

Post by bob sterman » Fri Dec 31, 2021 11:11 am

Grumble wrote:
Thu Dec 30, 2021 2:46 pm
headshot wrote:
Mon Dec 27, 2021 9:37 am
It sounded a lot like woo. Is my skepticism well placed??
His book was listed for the Royal Society book prize
Worth noting - the prize is for popular science writing - not science itself.

There's a link to a full list of everything that's been shortlisted for the prize going back to 1988 half way down this page...

https://royalsociety.org/grants-schemes ... t-winners/

Having read some of them - I can confidently say that being on the list is NOT a guarantee that a book contains no claims unsupported by evidence.

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Re: James Nestor - Breathing Woo

Post by Grumble » Fri Dec 31, 2021 6:48 pm

bob sterman wrote:
Fri Dec 31, 2021 11:11 am
Grumble wrote:
Thu Dec 30, 2021 2:46 pm
headshot wrote:
Mon Dec 27, 2021 9:37 am
It sounded a lot like woo. Is my skepticism well placed??
His book was listed for the Royal Society book prize
Worth noting - the prize is for popular science writing - not science itself.

There's a link to a full list of everything that's been shortlisted for the prize going back to 1988 half way down this page...

https://royalsociety.org/grants-schemes ... t-winners/

Having read some of them - I can confidently say that being on the list is NOT a guarantee that a book contains no claims unsupported by evidence.
Absolutely, I didn’t mean it to sound like that was in its defence, more of an indictment of the book prize giving validity by nomination.
A bit churlish

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