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The first historic genome of Treponema pallidum causes syphilis

Penelitian - The scientists rediscovered the first historic genome of the bacterium Treponema pallidum that causes syphilis. The international team managed to encode three genomes of T. pallidum bacteria from the framework of the Mexican colonial era and was able to distinguish the subspecies that caused syphilis and subspecies that caused yaws from archaeological sources.

A team of researchers including scientists from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, the University of Tübingen, the National School of Anthropology and History in Mexico City, and the University of Zurich have restored DNA from this bacteria from an ancient sample that opens up possibilities directly study the evolution and origins of disease.

Penelitian The first historic genome of Treponema pallidum causes syphilis

New report on PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases where scientists differentiate genetically between subspecies of the disease that causes syphilis and which causes yaws. Diseases cause different effects on living people, but it is not easy to differentiate in skeletal remains that have hampered the study of the disease.

Treponema pallidum is a bacterium that attacks humans that cause syphilis and yaws. In particular, sexually transmitted syphilis with millions of new infections is reported each year. Until now there is no understanding of the history, evolution and origins of syphilis. 15th century syphilis in Europe has led to a debate in which different treponemal diseases leave similar marks on bone.

Some scientists propose a hypothesis that syphilis was a New World disease introduced to Europe during the colonial era, while others claimed the disease was widespread in human populations before the 15th century pandemic. Current findings have proven to complicate the hypothesis.

"Our work demonstrates the molecular identification value of ancient pathogens, especially in treponemal diseases in which skeletal responses to various pathogenic subspecies are often divided, challenging the development of diagnoses through osteological observation," said Verena Schuenemann of the University of Zurich.

The researchers examined five individuals found from former Santa Isabel monastery is a historic site in downtown Mexico City used by Franciscan nuns from 1681 to 1861. Three of the individuals tested positive for treponemal DNA buried in the colonial era some 350 years ago.

The research team determined T. pallidum ssp. pallidum which causes syphilis and one T. pallidum ssp. pertenue which causes yaws where the difference between the two can not be seen only by morphological evidence. Findings in both sub-species may show similar symptoms but may be genetically differentiated in the primordial sample.

"Previous research that found T. pallidum ssp. Pertenue in the old world monkeys and our findings that two subspecies of T. pallidum are likely to cause similar skeletal manifestations, perhaps an evolutionary history of a more complex T. pallidum," said Alexander Herbig of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.

Journal : Verena J. Schuenemann et al. Historic Treponema pallidum genomes from Colonial Mexico retrieved from archaeological remains, PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, June 21, 2018, DOI:10.1371/journal.pntd.0006447

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