C 027: ANCIENT DNA STUDIES BRING NEW LIGHT ON THE EPIDEMIOLOGY OF TUBERCULOSIS

J Pharm Pharmacogn Res 2(Suppl. 1): S79, 2014

Special supplement with the abstract book of LATINFARMA 2013

Conference

C 027: ANCIENT DNA STUDIES BRING NEW LIGHT ON THE EPIDEMIOLOGY OF TUBERCULOSIS

Bercovier H.

Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, The Faculty of Medicine, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.
Abstract

Tuberculosis (TB) was highly active much before the Industrial Revolution as proven by the documented presence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in a North American Bison, 20.000 years ago, in Egyptian mommies, in human skeletons dating from the Middle-Age and up to the 17th Century in Western Europe. By the study of ancient DNA, we can retrace in Western Europe the emergence of TB that seems to reach its peak in the 18th Century and has declined since, especially in the 20th Century. In the late Middle age, the end of the epidemics of Leprosy could already indicate the importance of the diffusion of TB in the population; TB indeed may have conferred cross protection as it has been shown for BCG. Study of ancient DNA in skeletons originating from well characterized cemeteries showed that close to 25% of the population was infected by M. tuberculosis at the end of the Middle Age. In addition, the social impact of TB was such that from the13th to the 18th Century French and English Queens and Kings inherited the divine royal touch that cured Scrofula (TB lymphadenitis). In the 17th Century, in the British registries, 20% of the recorded deaths were due to Consumption or Phthisis. In the 18th Century, in the city of Bristol between 1790 and 1796 close to 50% of the recorded death were due Tuberculosis. This percentage drops to 25% at the beginning of the 19th Century (the peak of the Industrial Revolution) and to 14% at the end of the19th Century. TB mortality decreased by half in adults in England between 1851 and 1890 indicating the beginning of the end of the epidemics. It seems that the burst of the epidemics of TB was linked in Europe more with the development of commercial exchanges on a large scale and the development of cities and workshops rather than with the Industrial Revolution. The food alimentary situation and the movement of population seem to have been additive factors for that burst. This scenario could help us to predict what may happen in developing countries and what must be done to prevent a new burst of Tuberculosis.