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Human major infections: Tuberculosis, treponematoses, leprosy—A paleopathological perspective of their evolution


Henneberg, Maciej; Holloway-Kew, Kara; Lucas, Teghan (2021). Human major infections: Tuberculosis, treponematoses, leprosy—A paleopathological perspective of their evolution. PLoS ONE, 16(2):e0243687.

Abstract

The key to evolution is reproduction. Pathogens can either kill the human host or can invade the host without causing death, thus ensuring their own survival, reproduction and spread. Tuberculosis, treponematoses and leprosy are widespread chronic infectious diseases whereby the host is not immediately killed. These diseases are examples of the co-evolution of host and pathogen. They can be well studied as the paleopathological record is extensive, spanning over 200 human generations. The paleopathology of each disease has been well documented in the form of published synthetic analyses recording each known case and case frequencies in the samples they were derived from. Here the data from these synthetic analyses were re-analysed to show changes in the prevalence of each disease over time. A total of 69,379 skeletons are included in this study. There was ultimately a decline in the prevalence of each disease over time, this decline was statistically significant (Chi-squared, p<0.001). A trend may start with the increase in the disease’s prevalence before the prevalence declines, in tuberculosis the decline is monotonic. Increase in skeletal changes resulting from the respective diseases appears in the initial period of host-disease contact, followed by a decline resulting from co-adaptation that is mutually beneficial for the disease (spread and maintenance of pathogen) and host (less pathological reactions to the infection). Eventually either the host may become immune or tolerant, or the pathogen tends to be commensalic rather than parasitic.

Abstract

The key to evolution is reproduction. Pathogens can either kill the human host or can invade the host without causing death, thus ensuring their own survival, reproduction and spread. Tuberculosis, treponematoses and leprosy are widespread chronic infectious diseases whereby the host is not immediately killed. These diseases are examples of the co-evolution of host and pathogen. They can be well studied as the paleopathological record is extensive, spanning over 200 human generations. The paleopathology of each disease has been well documented in the form of published synthetic analyses recording each known case and case frequencies in the samples they were derived from. Here the data from these synthetic analyses were re-analysed to show changes in the prevalence of each disease over time. A total of 69,379 skeletons are included in this study. There was ultimately a decline in the prevalence of each disease over time, this decline was statistically significant (Chi-squared, p<0.001). A trend may start with the increase in the disease’s prevalence before the prevalence declines, in tuberculosis the decline is monotonic. Increase in skeletal changes resulting from the respective diseases appears in the initial period of host-disease contact, followed by a decline resulting from co-adaptation that is mutually beneficial for the disease (spread and maintenance of pathogen) and host (less pathological reactions to the infection). Eventually either the host may become immune or tolerant, or the pathogen tends to be commensalic rather than parasitic.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Evolutionary Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Uncontrolled Keywords:General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology, General Agricultural and Biological Sciences, General Medicine
Language:English
Date:25 February 2021
Deposited On:01 Mar 2021 09:55
Last Modified:01 Apr 2021 16:35
Publisher:Public Library of Science (PLoS)
ISSN:1932-6203
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0243687
PubMed ID:33630846

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