Leprosy originated in Europe?
It was Europe that infected the rest of the world with leprosy? A new study reveals a previously unknown diversity of strains of the disease in medieval Europe. This may indicate that the disease was born on our continent.
New research by an international team, in which theohe team consisted of m.in. Researchers at the Institute of Human Sciences of the. Researchers from the Max Planck University, the University of Tübingen, the Federal Polytechnic University of Lausanne and the University of Zurich have revealed that there is a much larger rostrain diversityoin leprosy circulating in medieval Europe than previously thought.
The discovery, based on the sequencing of 10 ancient genomoin the leprosy-causing bacteria Mycobacterium leprae, complicates previous assumptions about the origin and spread of the disease. Mycobacterium leprae was first described by Norwegian researcher Armauer Hansen in 1873. In 2008, another disease-causing bacterium was discovered – Mycobacterium lepromatosis.
Leprosy is one of the oldest and most stigmatizing diseasesob in human history. The first references to this disease come from ancient sourcesodeles from India, China and Greece. Over the course of a centuryoin roOther theories have pointed to Africa, India or the Middle Eastod, as possible birthplaces of the disease. But researchers were not sure where leprosy actually came from.
The disease was common in Europe until the 16th century. There are still sporadic cases on the Old Continent, but leprosy is still going strong in many parts of Asia and Africa. More than 200,000 new cases are registered each yearow.
– The question of where leprosy originated has been raised for centuries. Until now, the disease was thought to have been born somewhere in the Far East – said Helen Donoghue of University College London, cooauthor of the study. She added that their analysis is changing that view.
Bacteria Mycobacterium leprae is the mainothe leading cause of leprosy. Previous analyses of this bacterium suggested that there are only a few strains of itoin whichoOnly two were present in medieval Europe. The new research published in the „PLoS Pathogens”, was aimed at a more detailedoA comprehensive study of the history and origin Mycobacterium leprae By looking for evidence ofoin the genetic background from many ancient probek from all over Europe.
This is the largest study to date on ancient varieties of the disease. Researchers have analyzed about 90 skeletonsow with deformities characteristic of leprosy, ktore have been found in Europe and date from the period between 400 and 1400. Analysis has reconstructed 10 genomesoin medieval bacteria Mycobacterium leprae.
Reconstructed genomes represent all known strains, including those thatore are now linked to ros locations around the world, including Asia, Africa and the Americas. Researchers in one cemetery were able to find a multitude of strains ofoin bacteria. This illustrates the rohe diversity of the disease circulating in medieval Europe.
– We found a much larger rogenetic diversity in Europe than expected. In addition, we found that all known strains of leprosy are present in medieval Europe, suggesting that leprosy mohead had already been widely spread throughout Asia and Europe in antiquity or originated in western Eurasia – explained Johannes Krause, senior author of the study and director of the Institute of Human Sciences im. Max Planck. – Perhaps it originated in southeastern Europe or western Asia,” he added.
Researchers also studied the oldest known case of the disease in Britain. A strain of bacteria taken from skeletal remains found in Great Chesterford has been dated to between 415-545 AD. It is the same strain thatory is present in wspomodern hogsorek in the British Isles, suggesting that the disease may have been brought to Britain through the fur trade.
– Dynamics of transmission Mycobacterium leprae in human history has not been fully elucidated. Characterization and geographic linkage of oldest strainow are key to deciphering the exact origin of leprosy. Although we have some written records of cases of theoin leprosy, ktore existed before our era, but none have yet been confirmed at the molecular level – Verena Schuenemann of the University of Zurich said.
Abundance of ancient genomesoin the current study led to a new age estimate for M. leprae. According to the analysis, leprosy is at least several thousand years old.