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Exploring ancient Tuberculosis transmission chains

New details about tuberculosis’ evolutionary history in ancient South America point to a complex web of disease transmission in the pre-colonial period

Tuberculosis is the second most common cause of death worldwide by an infectious pathogen after Covid-19, but many aspects of its long history with humans remain controversial. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and Arizona State University in Tempe, USA,  found that ancient tuberculosis discovered in archaeological human remains from South America is most closely related to a variant of tuberculosis associated today with seals, but surprisingly these cases were found in people who lived nowhere near the coast. This implies that these cases were not the result of direct transmission from seals, and instead one, or more, spillover events were likely to be the primary drivers of human infection.

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