Challenges of Using NGS to Detect T. cruzi in Human Remains from Pre-Columbian South America


The trypanosomatid parasites are responsible for devastating human disease worldwide. In the Americas, Trypanosoma cruzi is the causative agent of Chagas Disease (CD), the most epidemic zoonosis in Latin America today. The clinical manifestations of CD, however, have been recognized in archaeological human remains from South America as early as 9,000 years ago. We present preliminary results of a project that applies paleogenomic methods, including targeted enrichment and next-generation sequencing (NGS), to capture T. cruzi in pre-Columbian human remains, incorporating material with and without signs of infection. To date, the molecular detection of T. cruzi via PCR has been reported for a number of cases, but PCR products have limited power to address evolutionary questions. If successful, reconstructed NGS data from ancient parasites will be used test hypotheses regarding the origins, timing and dispersal of human-adapted lineages in ways that PCR products cannot. NGS methods, especially detection via metagenomic screening, must contend with their own challenges, namely false-positives and determining a ‘presence/absence’ threshold for sequence reads that match an organism of interest. We report the initial NGS results for 70+ individuals from mostly Peru and Chile and discuss the major challenges and pitfalls in interpreting and authenticating these data.

Cite this Record

Challenges of Using NGS to Detect T. cruzi in Human Remains from Pre-Columbian South America. Kelly Harkins, Laura Weyrich, Lars Fehren-Schmitz. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431022)


Geographic Keywords
South America

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17115