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Medicine

Study: Seals Infected Early Americans With Tuberculosis 74

Posted by samzenpus
from the seal-of-consumption dept.
mdsolar writes that a study suggests that tuberculosis first appeared in the New World less than 6,000 years ago and it was brought here by seals. After a remarkable analysis of bacterial DNA from 1,000-year-old mummies, scientists have proposed a new hypothesis for how tuberculosis arose and spread around the world. The disease originated less than 6,000 years ago in Africa, they say, and took a surprising route to reach the New World: it was carried across the Atlantic by seals. The new study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, has already provoked strong reactions from other scientists. "This is a landmark paper that challenges our previous ideas about the origins of tuberculosis," said Terry Brown, a professor of biomolecular archaeology at the University of Manchester. "At the moment, I'm still in the astonished stage over this."
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Study: Seals Infected Early Americans With Tuberculosis

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  • by Guppy (12314) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @08:12PM (#47716859)

    Oh, here it is: Pre-Columbian mycobacterial genomes reveal seals as a source of New World human tuberculosis [nature.com] (Paywall -- free Nature summary article here [nature.com]).

    Modern strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis from the Americas are closely related to those from Europe, supporting the assumption that human tuberculosis was introduced post-contact. This notion, however, is incompatible with archaeological evidence of pre-contact tuberculosis in the New World. Comparative genomics of modern isolates suggests that M. tuberculosis attained its worldwide distribution following human dispersals out of Africa during the Pleistocene epoch, although this has yet to be confirmed with ancient calibration points. Here we present three 1,000-year-old mycobacterial genomes from Peruvian human skeletons, revealing that a member of the M. tuberculosis complex caused human disease before contact. The ancient strains are distinct from known human-adapted forms and are most closely related to those adapted to seals and sea lions. Two independent dating approaches suggest a most recent common ancestor for the M. tuberculosis complex less than 6,000 years ago, which supports a Holocene dispersal of the disease. Our results implicate sea mammals as having played a role in transmitting the disease to humans across the ocean.

  • Re:Africa man... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Iamthecheese (1264298) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @08:56PM (#47717113)

    Seriously? The chance to cause global disasters and a million war deaths (by the most off-the-wall-extreme measures [owni.eu] for the US's war on terror) and the like are not preferable to Africa's situation?

    Let me count some of the tragedies in recent years in Africa.

    • 1.2 million [wikipedia.org] annual aids deaths
    • Over 550,000 [netsforlifeafrica.org] Malaria deaths.
    • Massive [wikipedia.org]ethnic cleansing and Religiously [nytimes.com] motivated murders.
    • Large areas [thewaterproject.org]without water, or without clean water
    • Basic democratic process failure [usnews.com]

    I'm not arguing that first world countries are utopias but to claim Africa has it better or is doing things better is silly on the face of it.

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