Paleopathology and the History of Tuberculosis: New Results from Ancient South America


This paper will first examine skeletal evidence for disseminated TB in the Americas prior to the Era of Exploration. We then consider this American tuberculosis in the context of traditional models and more recent molecular evolutionary models based on contemporary Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex strain variation. The most parsimonious current global history for TB places its origin in Africa, then spreading to South and Southeast Asia. Subsequent dispersal to Europe and increased virulence characterized the pathogen carried around the globe in the 15th century, which continues to plague 21st century global health. Both the older and more recent models for the history and co-evolution of our species and Mycobacterium tuberculosis have, however, largely ignored the American expression. In this comprehensive study of the Western Hemisphere examples of skeletal TB2, we screened 68 pre- and post-contact individuals for five genes. Three of the 68 samples, all from the Chiribaya culture of southern Perú, show convincing molecular evidence of TB. Surprisingly, these South American forms are most closely related to those affecting seals and sea lions. Still to be assessed is ancient North American TB, which may have originated in eastern Asia or South America or from an animal vector.

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Paleopathology and the History of Tuberculosis: New Results from Ancient South America. Jane Buikstra, Kristen Bos, Kelly Harkins, Johannes Krause, Anne Stone. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397438)

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Geographic Keywords
South America

Spatial Coverage

min long: -93.691; min lat: -56.945 ; max long: -31.113; max lat: 18.48 ;