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

The Health of Early Homo


Department of Anthropology, Drew University

Friday 11, Park Concourse Add to calendar

It is now apparent that human ancestors encountered many infectious agents even before the Neolithic. This paper reconstructs what some of these agents may have been, based on analysis of microbial, viral, and human genomes. A review of this research suggests that hominins of 2-3 Mya experienced selection mediated by trypanosomes, hominoid malarias, bacterial infections of infants and newborns, viruses such as arboviruses, retroviruses, and hepatitis viruses, and bacteria involved in sepsis, as indicated by polymorphisms found in the human genome. In addition, genetic studies of pathogens and parasites have shown that many DNA viruses, tuberculosis, tapeworms, and bacteria such as Helicobacter, Shigella, and Salmonella were ancient health problems predating human migration from Africa. The many opportunistic pathogens found in the human microbiome suggest that these, too, are probably long-standing co-habitants and occasional causes of disease. Thus infectious disease was an important evolutionary force during human evolution.

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