When History Meets Molecular Medicine: Molecular History of Human Tubercolosis

Laura Ottini, Mario Falchetti


Tuberculosis represents one of the humankinds most socially devastating diseases. Despite a long history of medical research and the development of effective therapies, this disease remains a global health danger even in the 21st century. Tuberculosis may cause death but infected people with effective immunity may remain healthy for years, suggesting long-term host-pathogen co-existence. Because of its antiquity, a supposed association with human settlements and the tendency to leave typical lesions on skeletal and mummified remains, tuberculosis has been the object of intensive multidisciplinary studies, including paleo-pathological research. During the past 10 years molecular paleo-pathology developed as a new scientific discipline allowing the study of ancient pathogens by direct detection of their DNA. In this work, we reviewed evidences for tuberculosis in ancient human remains, current methods for identifying ancient mycobacterial DNA and explored current theories of Mycobacterium tuberculosis evolution and their implications in the global development of tuberculosis looking into the past and present at the same time.

Key words: Tuberculosis - Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex - Mycobacterium tuberculosis - Paleopathology - Ancient DNA

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