Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Leprosy in History
Bacteria are capable of evolving very quickly, and some forms that used to cause deadly disease are now much less virulent. So scientists naturally wondered if the changes in leprosy as a disease reflect genetic changes in the microbe that causes the disease, Mycobacterium leprae. A team led by Patrick Brennan of Colorado State extracted bacterial DNA from skeletons buried at medieval leper's cemeteries in England and Scandinavia, sequenced the DNA, and then compared it to DNA from modern M. leprae. The result: no difference.
Funny that a lot of the online links to this story have titles like "Scientists Unravel Mystery of Leprosy's Decline," whereas actually these scientists failed to learn anything about why leprosy declined, beyond ruling out evolution of the bacterium as the cause.