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Ancient Mycobacterium leprae genomes reveal a high diversity of Mycobacterium leprae in medieval Europe

Schuenemann, Verena J, Avanzi, Charlotte, Krause-Kyora, Ben, Seitz, Alexander, Herbig, Alexander, Inskip, Sarah, Bonazzi, Marion, Reiter, Ella, Urban, Christian, Pedersen, Dorthe Dangvard , Taylor, G Michael, Singh, Pushpendra, Stewart, Graham, Veleminsky, Petr, Likovsky, Jakub, Marcsik, Antonia, Molnar, Erika, Palfi, Gyorgy, Mariotti, Valentina, Riga, Alessandro, Belcastro, M Giovanna, Boldsen, Jesper L, Nebel, Almut, Mays, Simon, Donoghue, Helen D, Zakrzewski, Sonia, Benjak, Andrej, Nieselt, Kay, Cole, Stewart T and Krause, Johannes (2018) Ancient Mycobacterium leprae genomes reveal a high diversity of Mycobacterium leprae in medieval Europe PLOS Pathogens, 14 (5), e1006997.

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Abstract

Studying ancient DNA allows us to retrace the evolutionary history of human pathogens, such as Mycobacterium leprae, the main causative agent of leprosy. Leprosy is one of the oldest recorded and most stigmatizing diseases in human history. The disease was prevalent in Europe until the 16th century and is still endemic in many countries with over 200,000 new cases reported annually. Previous worldwide studies on modern and European medieval M. leprae genomes revealed that they cluster into several distinct branches of which two were present in medieval Northwestern Europe. In this study, we analyzed 10 new medieval M. leprae genomes including the so far oldest M. leprae genome from one of the earliest known cases of leprosy in the United KingdomÐa skeleton from the Great Chesterford cemetery with a calibrated age of 415±545 C.E. This dataset provides a genetic time transect of M. leprae diversity in Europe over the past 1500 years. We find M. leprae strains from four distinct branches to be present in the Early Medieval Period, and strains from three different branches were detected within a single cemetery from the High Medieval Period. Altogether these findings suggest a higher genetic diversity of M. leprae strains in medieval Europe at various time points than previously assumed. The resulting more complex picture of the past phylogeography of leprosy in Europe impacts current phylogeographical models of M. leprae dissemination. It suggests alternative models for the past spread of leprosy such as a wide spread prevalence of strains from different branches in Eurasia already in Antiquity or maybe even an origin in Western Eurasia. Furthermore, these results highlight how studying ancient M. leprae strains improves understanding the history of leprosy worldwide.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences > School of Biosciences and Medicine
Authors :
NameEmailORCID
Schuenemann, Verena J
Avanzi, Charlotte
Krause-Kyora, Ben
Seitz, Alexander
Herbig, Alexander
Inskip, Sarah
Bonazzi, Marion
Reiter, Ella
Urban, Christian
Pedersen, Dorthe Dangvard
Taylor, G Michael
Singh, Pushpendra
Stewart, GrahamG.Stewart@surrey.ac.uk
Veleminsky, Petr
Likovsky, Jakub
Marcsik, Antonia
Molnar, Erika
Palfi, Gyorgy
Mariotti, Valentina
Riga, Alessandro
Belcastro, M Giovanna
Boldsen, Jesper L
Nebel, Almut
Mays, Simon
Donoghue, Helen D
Zakrzewski, Sonia
Benjak, Andrej
Nieselt, Kay
Cole, Stewart T
Krause, Johannes
Date : 10 May 2018
DOI : 10.1371/journal.ppat.1006997
Copyright Disclaimer : Copyright: © 2018 Schuenemann et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Depositing User : Melanie Hughes
Date Deposited : 14 Aug 2018 11:47
Last Modified : 14 Aug 2018 11:47
URI: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/id/eprint/848923

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