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In the beginning of Speaker for the Dead it is revealed that, due to the deaths of Gusto and Cida, Lusitania was without a xenobiologist. In Xenocide, it is revealed that Novinha

laced the food source with the descolada treatment. This was necessary to keep the non-native humans alive.

But, between the death of her parents and Novinha becoming a xenobiologist, there was nobody to do this, at least not secretly like Novinha did. So, how did those who lived on Lusitania survive?

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The answer to the question is given in the previous book in the series, "Speaker for the Dead ". When Ender arrives on Lusitania he is told that the descolada is kept in check by ingesting a dietary supplement - the Colador - developed by Novinha's parents, Gusto and Cida:

"Nonsense," said the Bishop. "Your parents found a cure for that." "They didn't cure it," said Novinha. "They controlled it. They stopped it from becoming active." "That's right," said Bosquinha. "That's why we put the additives in the water. The Colador."

They unfortunately died of the descolada before enough of the drug could be produced, but their results were not secret, and the use of the supplement is known generally throughout the colony:

...we have to eat a supplement, like an extra vitamin, to keep the plague from striking again. They told you that, didn't they? If you once get it in your system, you'll have to keep that supplement all your life, even if you leave here.

So it is not a case of Novinha surreptitiously "lacing" the food. What is secret is that the descolada adapts to the supplement, and periodically it has to be changed when the descolada becomes immune to it. As time went on, the rate at which the descolada adapted increased. But while Novinha was growing up, the first form that her parents developed was sufficient, so the colony was able to survive without a Xenobiologist.

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  • The "non-native humans" line was added by me in response to a comment asking what Lusitania was - I wanted to communicate that it wasn't a place humans were native to.
    – bobble
    Feb 8, 2022 at 16:16
  • I read it as meaning there were "native humans" and "non-native humans". Now I see what you meant. Feb 8, 2022 at 16:18

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