A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Ancient Andeans May Have Developed a TB Response
Friday, March 31, 2023
ATLANTA, GEORGIA—According to a statement released by the National Science Foundation, Sophie Joseph of Emory University and her colleagues suggest that people who lived in South America’s Andes Mountains may have begun to adapt to the tuberculosis bacterium more than 3,000 years ago. The researchers were examining the genomes of individuals from modern Indigenous populations living in Ecuador at an elevation of more than 8,000 feet because they were interested in learning how the region’s early inhabitants adapted to living at high altitude. “We were surprised to find that the strongest genetic signals of positive selection were not associated with high altitude but for the immune response to tuberculosis,” said team member John Lindo. At about this time, Joseph explained, agriculture began to develop in the region, bringing about more densely populated societies, and perhaps, human-pathogen co-evolution. Another study has detected the bacterium in 1,400-year-old mummified remains found in the Andean Mountains. It had been previously thought that tuberculosis traveled to South America with Europeans. Read the original scholarly article about this research in iScience. For more on the origin of tuberculosis in the Americas, go to "Across the Atlantic by Flipper."
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