The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Genetic analysis of ancient Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex DNA from Precolumbian Late Woodland and Mississippian sites in the lower Illinois River Valley


Department of Anthropology, Indiana University

Friday 5:15-5:30, Parlors Add to calendar

We have identified Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTC) DNA in individuals from the Late Woodland (LW) period at Schild and Yokem Mounds as well as the Mississippian period at Yokem. The three individuals from the LW Mound 1 at Schild are among the earliest cases of tuberculosis identified through the use of ancient DNA techniques in westcentral Illinois. Previous studies have found MTC DNA in Mississippian individuals from Schild Cemetery. Fifty-eight individuals from Schild and Yokem Mounds were screened for the presence of MTC genes gyrB, 16s rRNA, pncA, oxyR, and hsp65 in addition to insertion sequences IS6110 and IS1081. Partial gyrB sequences were amplified in Yokem individuals 1-18, 2-10, 2-11, 2-12, and 2-17, as well as Schild individuals 1-11, 1-17, and 1-24A. IS1081 was amplified in Schild 1-17 and a partial sequence of the 16s rRNA gene was amplified in Yokem 1-18. There were no pathognomic tuberculosis lesions in these individuals, but there is interesting evidence of systemic disease.

The source of MTC in the Americas remains unknown. It is generally suggested that tuberculosis was not present (or there was a very large increase in cases) in ancient North America until approximately AD 1000. We present data showing that the actual evolutionary history of the disease is not consistent with this interpretation. The data are more consistent with the hypothesis that the ancient MTC strain(s) presents differently than modern MTC strains and thus is not detected through gross paleopathology or is not visible as bone lesions.

This study was funded by NSF092511.

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