Discovering the unknowns of Leprosy in the Middle Ages

Discovering the unknowns of Leprosy in the Middle Ages

Scientists reconstruct the genome of the pathogen responsible for leprosy to find out why there was a sudden decline in this disease at the end of the Middle Ages.

Leprosy was a common disease in medieval Europe and responsible for the exhumation of hundreds of graves. But, after the 16th century the disease experienced a considerable reduction in almost the entire continent, perhaps because the pathogen that caused it became less harmful, but to find out with certainty the reason an international team of biologists and archaeologists have joined for the cause. .

They have decoded the genome of five strains of Mycobacterium leprae, bacteria responsible for leprosy, which have been collected and reproduced thanks to the remains of human beings found in medieval tombs. Task that was not easy because the bones contain less than 0.1% of bacterial DNA.

Many of the results indicate that humans developed a resistance to this disease reinforced by a process of natural selection whereby sick people were isolated and prohibited from procreating.

The surprising resistance of the bacterium in the genetic material, probably due to its thick cell walls, favors the possibility of going even further back in history and power discover the origins of this disease which to this day still affects more than 200,000 people each year around the world.

I was born in Madrid on August 27, 1988 and since then I started a work of which there is no example. Fascinated by both numbers and letters and a lover of the unknown, that is why I am a future graduate in Economics and Journalism, interested in understanding life and the forces that have shaped it. Everything is easier, more useful and more exciting if, with a look at our past, we can improve our future and for that… History.


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