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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 thedarb (181754) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @06:59PM (#47716785) Homepage
    That place is trying to kill us off, for sure.
  • by Narcocide (102829) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @06:59PM (#47716791) Homepage

    She told me she was a mermaid!!

  • by Guppy (12314) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @07:12PM (#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.

    • I am not sure I believe their theory. It is also possible that people brought the disease to the new world. There is quite a bit of circumstantial evidence for human travel across the Atlantic by the Phoenicians and/or Romans. It is unlikely there was any regular trade, but over the centuries a few ships may have been blown off course, and made a one-way trip. For instance, the bottle gourd [wikipedia.org], which was used to store water on ships, crossed the Atlantic to Brazil right about that time. Most likely the se

      • I am not sure I believe their theory. It is also possible that people brought the disease to the new world. There is quite a bit of circumstantial evidence for human travel across the Atlantic by the Phoenicians and/or Romans. It is unlikely there was any regular trade, but over the centuries a few ships may have been blown off course, and made a one-way trip. For instance, the bottle gourd [wikipedia.org], which was used to store water on ships, crossed the Atlantic to Brazil right about that time. Most likely the seeds were brought there on a ship.

        That would be easy enough to test, provided we had archeological samples of Phoenicians / Romans who were infected with M. tuberculosis (Mtb). Then, one could do the same phylogenetic analysis done in the paper that claded with the seal / sea lion Mtb sequences. Of course, the sequence analysis data provided in the paper would probably argue against your hypothesis, as Mtb sequences obtained from infected members of those civilizations would probably clade with modern European Mtb sequences rather than with

      • by ruir (2709173)
        It is not only possible, but it documented Portuguese discovers, vikings, Chinese, and people far earlier where there. It was well known by Portuguese fishermen that using certain currents and winds you would reach certain places, however Portugal choose to keep that secret because of other European powers. So in reality, it would not be a one way trip for a few lucky ones.
  • Like the swine or bird flu, SIV to HIV, and even the recently popular ebola.

    Germs don't care>

    They're as fair as they can be, equal opportunity infection agents.

  • But seals are sooooo cute! You just have to pet them with that blubbery body and cute whiskers and big, black eyes.
  • by PPH (736903) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @07:22PM (#47716923)

    We have already undertaken an effort to eradicate the seals. We have found that the most efficient means involves hunters with clubs.

    • That is also the picture, that does not include a puppy or a kitten, that's most frequently used by the SPCA in cable fundraisers.

      Come here little seal!

      How unfair is Mother Nature that baby alligators do not promote the same level of empathy?

      • by PPH (736903)

        Also in instruction manuals [photobucket.com] for lots of equipment.

      • by tepples (727027)

        That is also the picture, that does not include a puppy

        Young seals and young dogs are both pups.

        or a kitten

        Now I get it: a seal pup looks cute because it combines most of the appearance of a dog with the whiskers of a cat and even shorter legs than a dachshund or corgi.

        • Now I get it: a seal pup looks cute because it combines most of the appearance of a dog with the whiskers of a cat and even shorter legs than a dachshund or corgi.

          Indeed.

          And those short legs sure seem to work to the seals' detriment when they go clubbing.

  • clubbing (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    so all that clubbing was retroactively justified.
  • See why we hunt them here in Canada?
  • Did U.S. Navy special ops engage in biological warfare?
  • There is evidence for human canine transmission of TB http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/artic... [cdc.gov] and dogs were kept in the Americas so the transmission path could have involved another animal in addition to seals.
  • by Loki_666 (824073) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @12:10AM (#47718169)

    How do you change SEAL into COAT in just four moves?

    SEAL
    CLUB
    CLUB
    CLUB
    COAT :D

  • look, I'm just going to drop in and say that there's a loose scientific consensus on all kinds of pre-Columbian contact with the Western Hemisphere

    that said, it would be odd if it was seals not humans

  • by tomhath (637240) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @07:04AM (#47719227)
    One of the main reasons we pasteurize cow's milk is to eliminate tuberculosis [howstuffworks.com]

    . It shouldn't be a surprise that other animals could be a vector.

    The pasteurization of milk didn't come into practice until the late 1800s. Back then, tuberculosis was commonly carried by milk. A low-temperature, long-time (LTLT) process, also known as batch pasteurization, was first developed to kill the tuberculosis pathogen. The incidence of tuberculosis contracted from milk fell dramatically, and in fact it no longer makes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's list of foodborne illnesses

  • Consumption be done about it? Of cough, of cough.
    It's not the cough that carries you off. It's the coffin they carry you off in.

    Thank you. I'll be here all week. Try the veal.

  • The disease originated less than 6,000 years ago

    Well duhhh. To be any older than that, it would have been around before the Earth existed.

  • What's the nautical speed velocity of an unladen seal?

    • by mwehle (2491950)

      What's the nautical speed velocity of an unladen seal?

      Too sophisticated a question for me. I'm still working on what "speed velocity" is.

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