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Palaeomicrobiology of human infectious diseases

Donoghue, HD; (2012) Palaeomicrobiology of human infectious diseases. In: UNESCO-EOLSS Joint Committee, (ed.) Global Perspectives in Health. EOLSS Publishers: Oxford, UK.

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Abstract

Palaeomicrobiology is the study of ancient infectious diseases, based on the examination of archaeological or historical specimens. This chapter deals with human infectious diseases, but the field also covers diseases of other animals and plants. Its recent development dates from the introduction of molecular methods, mainly the amplification and detection of ancient DNA from disease-causing microbes, known generally as pathogens, but also includes studies of microbial carbohydrates, lipids and proteins. Why study palaeomicrobiology? Originally the aim was to verify diagnoses reached by palaeopathologists after the careful study of changes to bones and mummified tissues. It was soon realized that palaeomicrobiology provides answers to historical questions, such as whether European colonialists brought tuberculosis to the Americas. Concurrent developments in genomics have enabled comparison of gene sequences from ancient and modern pathogens. This has led to increased understanding of the origin of infectious diseases and their spread around the world. This is important today, as microbial pathogens are continuing to be a major problem to humanity, with increased levels of infection, ability to cause illness and death (virulence) and drug resistance.

Type: Book chapter
Title: Palaeomicrobiology of human infectious diseases
Publisher version: https://www.eolss.net/index.aspx
Language: English
Additional information: This is part of a large on-line encyclopaedia, developed under the auspices of UNESCO and available free to individuals and institutions in the UN list of Least Developed Countries (LDC).
Keywords: ancient DNA, anthropology, archaeology, bacteria, bones, evolution, leprosy, microbial genomics, microbial pathogens, molecular markers, mummies, parasites, plague, tuberculosis, viruses
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Div of Infection and Immunity
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1369937
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