TUBERCULOSIS: Now for the science bit

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In response to a letter by R Knight in the Boxing Day edition of the Spalding Guardian.

I would first like to agree with the fact that the area in which we all live suffers from neglect by the minority of dog owners who refuse to clean up their mess.

I also agree that finding spit along paths of the towns and villages is hardly a welcoming sight for the pedestrians that walk by.

In this particular email, however, ignorance has impaired the argument.

To quote, “this disgusting habit can be one of the greatest carriers of this devastating disease (TB)”. TB is indeed a ‘devastating disease’, however nine out of ten carriers do not harbour the mycobacterium tubercolosis within their saliva, thus it is not transmitted via spit.

Furthermore, the issue raised is specifically spitting on the floor. The optimum temperature for bacterial binary fission in the genus mycobacteriaceae is between 30-50 degrees centigrade.

Thus, unless it is an incredibly hot day, the TB bacteria would die pretty much instantaneously upon impact with the ground.

To quell any scaremongering induced by R Knight’s email, the number of active TB cases last year in the UK were 9,000. The chances of an active carrier spitting on the floor, bacterial survival, and a person falling AND inhaling/consuming said spit is very small.

It is truly irritating to see a valid point tarnished by ignorance.

Richard Skells

Biochemistry student