Six-thousand year old bones excavated in Jericho may help a joint Israeli-Palestinian-German research group combat tuberculosis.
According to Prof. Mark Spigelman of the Kuvin Center for the Study of Infectious and Tropical Diseases at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who is leading the Israeli team, the bones, which were all excavated by Dr. Kathleen Kenyon between fifty and seventy years ago, will be tested for tuberculosis, leprosy, leishmania and malaria. However, the primary focus will be tuberculosis.
Spigelman is known for his pioneering studies of ancient diseases (palaeoepidemiology) found on mummified bodies and human remains from Hungary and Korea to Sudan, in his quest to provide answers to the development of diseases affecting us today, such as tuberculosis, hepatitis and malaria.
'TB still the biggest killer'
Tuberculosis - or TB - is a deadly infectious bacterial disease that usually attacks the lungs. Acknowledged as a disease of crowds, it is transmitted from human to human living in close contact.
Dating back thousands of years, tuberculosis was well known in antiquity. However, according to Spigelman, it is still the biggest killer even today. One-third of the world's current population has been infected by tuberculosis, resulting, in recent years, in approximately three million deaths per year.
While the origins of tuberculosis and its evolution remain unclear, it is thought it came from the first villages and small towns in the Fertile Crescent region about 9-10,000 years ago. Jericho is one of the earliest towns on earth, dating back to 9,000 B.C., and so a lot of communicable - or town - diseases would have had a good start in this community.
By examining human and animal bones from this site, the researchers will be able to see how the first people living in a crowded situation developed the diseases of crowds and how this affected t
|Contact: Rebecca Zeffert|
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem