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Tue Jan 16, 2018, 12:49 AM

Scientists identify what may have killed millions in mystery epidemic

Source: CNN

Scientists identify what may have killed millions in mystery epidemic

By Ashley Strickland, CNN
Updated 2232 GMT (0632 HKT) January 15, 2018

(CNN) — In the 16th century, an epidemic known as "cocoliztli" that caused bleeding and vomiting swept through large areas of Guatemala, Mexico and even reached Peru. It wiped out 80% of the population, killing millions of people.

Ancient DNA and a new technique have been used to determine the likely cause of this mysterious epidemic that contributed to a "cataclysmic" population decline.

Salmonella genomes, which cause typhoid fever, were recovered from DNA within the teeth of 10 skeletons buried in an undisturbed "cocoliztli" or "pestilence" cemetery in Oaxaca, Mexico. This would be the first known occurrence of salmonella in the Americas, according to a new study published in the journal Nature on Monday. Typhoid fever has long been suspected due to the recorded symptoms, but this is the first identification of bacteria at the site.

The researchers also believe that the arrival of Europeans to what was then known as Mesoamerica caused the devastating epidemic. Europeans were susceptible to enteric fever, also known as typhoid fever, and it is very likely that they were carriers for the disease when they arrived to conquer Mesoamerica.

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Read more: http://edition.cnn.com/2018/01/15/health/salmonella-epidemic-16th-century-mexico/index.html

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Source: Nature

Salmonella enterica genomes from victims of a major sixteenth-century epidemic in Mexico

Åshild J. Vågene, Alexander Herbig, Michael G. Campana, Nelly M. Robles García, Christina Warinner, Susanna Sabin, Maria A. Spyrou, Aida Andrades Valtueña, Daniel Huson, Noreen Tuross, Kirsten I. Bos & Johannes Krause

Nature Ecology & Evolution (2018)
doi:10.1038/s41559-017-0446-6
Evolutionary biologyEvolutionary geneticsMicrobial genetics
Received: 07 June 2017
Accepted: 07 December 2017
Published online: 15 January 2018

Abstract

Indigenous populations of the Americas experienced high mortality rates during the early contact period as a result of infectious diseases, many of which were introduced by Europeans. Most of the pathogenic agents that caused these outbreaks remain unknown. Through the introduction of a new metagenomic analysis tool called MALT, applied here to search for traces of ancient pathogen DNA, we were able to identify Salmonella enterica in individuals buried in an early contact era epidemic cemetery at Teposcolula-Yucundaa, Oaxaca in southern Mexico. This cemetery is linked, based on historical and archaeological evidence, to the 1545–1550 CE epidemic that affected large parts of Mexico. Locally, this epidemic was known as ‘cocoliztli’, the pathogenic cause of which has been debated for more than a century. Here, we present genome-wide data from ten individuals for Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica serovar Paratyphi C, a bacterial cause of enteric fever. We propose that S. Paratyphi C be considered a strong candidate for the epidemic population decline during the 1545 cocoliztli outbreak at Teposcolula-Yucundaa.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-017-0446-6

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