NOV 13, 2016 11:41 AM PST

Who was Typhoid Mary, Anyways?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Today, people use the name "Typhoid Mary" to refer to anyone who may be unwittingly spreading a disease. But few know the story of the actual Typhoid Mary - Mary Mallon - who, in the early 1900s, was the first person in the US to carry the typhoid fever pathogen.

Mallon was an Irish family cook who became associated with a typhoid outbreak in 1907. It seemed unlikely that she was the source since Mallon displayed no telltale signs of typhoid - abdominal cramping, fever, bloody nose, and hemorrhaging.

Mallon was twice quarantined against her will, during which times doctors confirmed she carried the pathogens. But as she was asymptomatic, Mallon refused to believe her involvement with the outbreaks, which led to a number of confirmed deaths. Watch the video to learn how scientists only recently worked out the mechanism of her dormant disease.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
MAY 03, 2020
Plants & Animals
Some Snakes Only Use Venomous Bites as a Last Resort
MAY 03, 2020
Some Snakes Only Use Venomous Bites as a Last Resort
Snakes have a bad rap with people because so many species are known to bite when disturbed. An even smaller subset of sn ...
MAY 05, 2020
Plants & Animals
When Rival Baboon Troops Collide, Only Chaos Ensues
MAY 05, 2020
When Rival Baboon Troops Collide, Only Chaos Ensues
Troops of Hamadryas baboons can reach numbers of 400 strong without a single particular leader. Albeit large, these troo ...
JUN 01, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Why SpaceX's Demo-2 Launch This Past Weekend Was So Significant
JUN 01, 2020
Why SpaceX's Demo-2 Launch This Past Weekend Was So Significant
If you somehow managed to miss the exciting news this past weekend, NASA and SpaceX set an important precedent in Americ ...
JUN 14, 2020
Space & Astronomy
NASA Picks Astrobotic to Deliver VIPER Rover to the Moon
JUN 14, 2020
NASA Picks Astrobotic to Deliver VIPER Rover to the Moon
NASA is no stranger to autonomous rovers. To date, the American space agency has sent four rovers to the Martian surface ...
JUL 23, 2020
Plants & Animals
Sharks Missing from 1/5 of World's Reefs
JUL 23, 2020
Sharks Missing from 1/5 of World's Reefs
Sharks of all sizes are vital to coral reef ecosystems, both as predators and prey. Shark populations have rapidly decli ...
JUL 26, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Scientists Reveal the Biggest-Ever 3D Map of the Universe
JUL 26, 2020
Scientists Reveal the Biggest-Ever 3D Map of the Universe
After five years of research, an international team over 100 astrophysicists from around 30 institutions worldwide has r ...
Loading Comments...