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Unusual discovery leads to fascinating tuberculosis theory
Date:8/20/2014

nal Science Foundation's Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences partially funded the research as part of an effort to assess tuberculosis' evolutionary history, its effects on human history and to understand recent reemergence of the disease.

Study researchers also hypothesize that once European tuberculosis strains arrived in the Americas, they completely replaced the prior strains brought over by seafaring animals. This event confused diagnosis of the impacts on Indian populations as researchers struggled to identify which tuberculosis strain was involved in American Indian deaths.

"We are not sure what the timeframe was for the replacement of American strains by European strains after contact," said Stone, indicating the role these strains played on Indian populations is still unclear. "This is one question that we hope to address in the future."

However, she said, "It is likely that the new European strain, which is more virulent, was a culprit--particularly since tuberculosis is really good at spreading during times of social crowding and distress."

Africa has the most diversity of tuberculosis strains, suggesting the pathogen likely originated there and spread. These research results give rise to speculation that humans gave tuberculosis to animals and within the last 2,500 years, marine animals carried it from Africa to South America where they gave it back to humans.

Researchers collected genetic samples from throughout the world and tested them for tuberculosis DNA. Of 76 DNA samples determined to be from pre- and post-European contact sites in the New World, three dated to around 750 to 1350 AD from the Osmore valley in Peru--from archaeological sites at El Yaral, El Algodonal and Chiribaya Alta--and had tuberculosis DNA that could be used for further study.

Project scientists compared these to a larger dataset of modern genomes that included animal strains. Research results showed a clear relationship to anim
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Contact: Bobbie Mixon
bmixon@nsf.gov
703-292-8485
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert

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