The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

DNA analysis of ancient pathogens


School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University

Thursday 8:15-8:30, Ballroom A Add to calendar

The revolution in genome-wide and targeted sequencing technologies has provided access to large amounts of data from ancient DNA samples, including ancient pathogens. These data promise to provide new insights into the evolution of pathogens over time, their geographic patterning, and host-pathogen coevolution. In this introduction to this symposium, some of the technological innovations that are being used to investigate ancient pathogen genome data will be reviewed, and the opportunities and challenges of these analyses will be examined. This will be framed using research on ancient tuberculosis as an example. In particular, I will discuss the results of using quantitative PCR to assess the presence of the pathogen in over 100 bone samples ranging in age from 100-5000 years BP and the challenges of developing assays that are species specific (and do not amplify often unknown environmental species) as well as some of the methods of DNA capture and sequencing that we are using to investigate the biogeography and evolution of tuberculosis in the Americas prior to, during, and after European colonization.

This research was funded by the National Science Foundation grant #BCS-0612222.

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