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Monday, 26 February 2018

Pathogen identified that was known to have caused 1545 epidemic in Mexico

Archeologists have provided us several clues for several early human history and the massive epidemics that were caused by some of the pathogens. Researchers use several techniques to analyze DNA and provide with enormous information about the causes of epidemics that happened over 500years ago.

Image: Obtained from Pixabay
Similarly from corpse excavated from a cemetery Teposcolula-Yucundaa located at Oaxaca in southern Mexico, traces of ancient DNA of Salmonella enterica subspecies serovar Paratyphi C was identified. A recent paper published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution led by equal contributors Åshild J. Vågene and Alexander Herbig suggest that this bacteria which caused enteric fever might be the same pathogen that was known to have caused 1545 epidemic in this community.
Researchers used a new metagenomic analysis tool called MEGAN alignment tool orMALT to identify this pathogen traces. Modernization of sophisticated techniques of DNA extraction and sequencing has provided easy identification of microbes and phylogenetic analysis from their DNA obtained from remnants of teeth and bones.

Tooth samples which were obtained from the corpse were used to identify both pre-contact and post-contact with the pathogen. The DNA were extracted and were sequenced which then was compared with the bacterial genome database available from NCBI. Additionally researchers with the help of archaeologists took soil samples to assess the background DNA.

The MALT was used to perform alignment and analysis of DNA sequence data. MALT has similar function like BLAST tool used to compute alignment of highly conserved sequence but unlike BLAST, MALT make these computations faster.

Results show that all the samples obtained from individuals from post-contact burial site aligns DNA with S. Paratyphi C DNA and unlikely there are no matches found with pre-contact burial site.

As the study compared only DNA samples from individuals excluding the RNA genomes, hence scientists consider themselves quite far from seeing the whole epidemic picture. Researchers now consider studying the multiple pathogens circulating at that time to have the synergistic effect on the population. This research thus provide insights about the presence of certain pathogens at that time and place of the epidemic but still further understanding is required to analyze the full story.

Journal Source:

Vågene Å, Herbig A, Campana M, Robles García N, Warinner C, Sabin S et al. Salmonella enterica genomes from victims of a major sixteenth-century epidemic in Mexico. Nature Ecology & Evolution. 2018;2(3):520-528.

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