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Study: Seals Infected Early Americans With Tuberculosis

samzenpus posted about 2 months ago | from the seal-of-consumption dept.

Medicine 74

mdsolar writes that a study suggests that tuberculosis first appeared in the New World less than 6,000 years ago and it was brought here by seals. After a remarkable analysis of bacterial DNA from 1,000-year-old mummies, scientists have proposed a new hypothesis for how tuberculosis arose and spread around the world. The disease originated less than 6,000 years ago in Africa, they say, and took a surprising route to reach the New World: it was carried across the Atlantic by seals. The new study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, has already provoked strong reactions from other scientists. "This is a landmark paper that challenges our previous ideas about the origins of tuberculosis," said Terry Brown, a professor of biomolecular archaeology at the University of Manchester. "At the moment, I'm still in the astonished stage over this."

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Africa man... (3, Funny)

thedarb (181754) | about 2 months ago | (#47716785)

That place is trying to kill us off, for sure.

Re:Africa man... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47717011)

Yes, Africa had a meeting 6001 years ago where all the tribes agreed on that.

(Africa is imho the least likely continent to cause global disasters, a few diseases because people live in poverty is hardly comparable to the wars and suffering caused by most 1st-world nations)

Re:Africa man... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47717101)

African tribes don't go to war against each other?

Re:Africa man... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47717699)

African tribes don't go to war against each other?

Lemme quote from TFA ~~!!

"At the moment, I'm still in the astonished stage over this"

... and about those seals ...
 
Don't you guys forget that we used the SEALS to locate and kill Osama bin Laden !

Re:Africa man... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47718041)

And seals are used in every nuclear/bio/chem lab in the world.

Re:Africa man... (5, Informative)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | about 2 months ago | (#47717113)

Seriously? The chance to cause global disasters and a million war deaths (by the most off-the-wall-extreme measures [owni.eu] for the US's war on terror) and the like are not preferable to Africa's situation?

Let me count some of the tragedies in recent years in Africa.

  • 1.2 million [wikipedia.org] annual aids deaths
  • Over 550,000 [netsforlifeafrica.org] Malaria deaths.
  • Massive [wikipedia.org] ethnic cleansing and Religiously [nytimes.com] motivated murders.
  • Large areas [thewaterproject.org] without water, or without clean water
  • Basic democratic process failure [usnews.com]

I'm not arguing that first world countries are utopias but to claim Africa has it better or is doing things better is silly on the face of it.

Re:Africa man... (1)

_merlin (160982) | about 2 months ago | (#47717235)

I think s/he is trying to make a point that African crises are largely confined to Africa. They haven't started any world wars, operated oppressive colonies in remote places, etc.

Re:Africa man... (2)

Chas (5144) | about 2 months ago | (#47717441)

I think s/he is trying to make a point that African crises are largely confined to Africa.

Yes, because nasty shit like this, and the things that follow it, ALWAYS stay contained!

Not to mention that it's just shrugging off the sheer misery happening over the entire continent...

Re:Africa man... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47717651)

For the most part, neither has China.

Re:Africa man... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47719637)

They haven't started any world wars, ...

It is not rational to give moral credit to people for not doing something which they were incapable of doing. Africans didn't colonize remote places because they were morally superior, but because they never developed any real civilization. Well, the Egyptians did, but sub-Saharan Africa has always been primitive, lacking the technology and social organization needed to explore the world.

Re:Africa man... (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 2 months ago | (#47717601)

They don't cause "global" disaters, only local, and they have nothing on that list you gave that's a "natural disaster" like weather or earthquake.

Re:Africa man... (2)

geekmux (1040042) | about 2 months ago | (#47717331)

Yes, Africa had a meeting 6001 years ago where all the tribes agreed on that.

(Africa is imho the least likely continent to cause global disasters, a few diseases because people live in poverty is hardly comparable to the wars and suffering caused by most 1st-world nations)

A few diseases? Well, that's rather delusional.

Go ahead and pit mankinds bloodlust for warfare against the 500 million that died of Polio. Spanish Flu? Throw another 100 million on the death toll fire. I can't even amass the numbers from The Plague. Thousands still die from it every year.

Chalk up another 30 million to AIDS.

And last but certainly not least, we have Africa to thank for such wonders as Ebola, which we can only hope and pray someone doesn't get stupid enough to try and weaponize that bastard.

Sorry to burst your bubble. We're good at killing each other trying to prove what happens after you die and all, but we're not quite as good as mother natures death machine.

Re:Africa man... (-1, Troll)

NotInHere (3654617) | about 2 months ago | (#47717561)

You have forgotten the worst illness of all. Homo Sapiens. Its a parasite when it lives in its home, and tries not to destroy it. Its an illness when it lives without even caring for anything except for itself, not even recognizing the long term disadvantage it can endure by heavily damaging its host. Lets hope the illness becomes a parasite, and don't kill itself by phenomena called "third world war".

Re:Africa man... (1)

geekmux (1040042) | about a month ago | (#47721203)

You have forgotten the worst illness of all. Homo Sapiens. Its a parasite when it lives in its home, and tries not to destroy it. Its an illness when it lives without even caring for anything except for itself, not even recognizing the long term disadvantage it can endure by heavily damaging its host. Lets hope the illness becomes a parasite, and don't kill itself by phenomena called "third world war".

Joe Rogan fan, eh? So you're here to eat the sandwich too then.

Re:Africa man... (1)

kwbauer (1677400) | about a month ago | (#47721699)

If you want to claim that you are nothing more than a parasite feel free to do so. Also realize that you have the ability to eradicate yourself.

Re:Africa man... (1)

LongearedBat (1665481) | about a month ago | (#47721285)

a few diseases because people live in poverty is hardly comparable to the wars and suffering caused by most 1st-world nations)

...until a disease gets well enough established that it can no longer be controlled and spreads across the world. For example, could Ebola become a global threat?

Re:Africa man... (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | about a month ago | (#47722075)

For example, could Ebola become a global threat?

Probably not unless it evolves to be more easily transmissible like the flu.

Re:Africa man... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47717717)

Africa might be the home of deadly diseases, but Australia is the home to creatures that will try to kill you a thousand different ways.

Deadly jellyfish? Check.
Giant Sharks? Check. (No "lasers" needed).
Venomous snakes? Check.
Deadly spiders? Check.
Poisonous octopi and snails? Check.
Paralyzing ticks? Check.
Poisonous centipedes? Check.

Poisonous cross between a duck and a beaver? CHECK.

Re:Africa man... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47719689)

Homicidally jealous Sheila? Check.

But but... (5, Funny)

Narcocide (102829) | about 2 months ago | (#47716791)

She told me she was a mermaid!!

Re:But but... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47716871)

She didn't say no.

Because she was a seal.

Re: But but... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47717471)

Ar Ar Ar means Ar Ar Ar.
Sexual assault is a crime.

Re:But but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47718269)

She didn't say no.

Because she was a seal.

And seals never leave a man behind.

Re:But but... (1)

rossdee (243626) | about a month ago | (#47719531)

:And seals never leave a man behind."

I think thats Army Rangers

Re:But but... (4, Funny)

antifoidulus (807088) | about 2 months ago | (#47717129)

Well, in the future here is a handy rule of thumb that has helped me throughout my life: if someone offers to have sex with you in exchange for a bucket of fish, run.

Re:But but... (2)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about 2 months ago | (#47717663)

On a related note: if someone offers to have sex with you in a bucket of fish, dive in.

Re:But but... (1)

reboot246 (623534) | about a month ago | (#47718799)

But never, ever tell her she smells like fish.

Re:But but... (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a month ago | (#47718619)

if someone offers to have sex with you in exchange for a bucket of fish, run.

Wait... who's offering whom the fish here?

Re:But but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47719203)

A man, and a seal, and a bucket of fish. Where was the nearest killer whale and great white conservation charity again?

Re:But but... (2)

tepples (727027) | about 2 months ago | (#47717167)

I assume this is an allusion to the folk tale "The Seal Wife" (#4080 on the Christiansen list [pitt.edu] ) about a "selkie" (someone from an indigenous culture that makes swimsuits from sealskins) who washes up on an island on the north side of Scotland. She takes off her swimsuit and sets it aside, but a fisherman steals it. Stockholm syndrome ensues.

Re:But but... (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about 2 months ago | (#47717695)

Glenn Yarbrough, The Mermaid Song.

Don't go swimming with a mermaid son, if you don't know how to swim.

Re:But but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47717875)

You really shouldn't have kissed her.

Re:But but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47720727)

you shouldn't hace kissed her afterwards . . . ;-8

Don't worry (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47716795)

They'll figure out a way to still blame white people.

Re:Don't worry (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 2 months ago | (#47717029)

Tag #WhereIsTheFuckingPaper (4, Informative)

Guppy (12314) | about 2 months ago | (#47716859)

Oh, here it is: Pre-Columbian mycobacterial genomes reveal seals as a source of New World human tuberculosis [nature.com] (Paywall -- free Nature summary article here [nature.com] ).

Modern strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis from the Americas are closely related to those from Europe, supporting the assumption that human tuberculosis was introduced post-contact. This notion, however, is incompatible with archaeological evidence of pre-contact tuberculosis in the New World. Comparative genomics of modern isolates suggests that M. tuberculosis attained its worldwide distribution following human dispersals out of Africa during the Pleistocene epoch, although this has yet to be confirmed with ancient calibration points. Here we present three 1,000-year-old mycobacterial genomes from Peruvian human skeletons, revealing that a member of the M. tuberculosis complex caused human disease before contact. The ancient strains are distinct from known human-adapted forms and are most closely related to those adapted to seals and sea lions. Two independent dating approaches suggest a most recent common ancestor for the M. tuberculosis complex less than 6,000 years ago, which supports a Holocene dispersal of the disease. Our results implicate sea mammals as having played a role in transmitting the disease to humans across the ocean.

Re:Tag #WhereIsTheFuckingPaper (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 months ago | (#47717273)

I am not sure I believe their theory. It is also possible that people brought the disease to the new world. There is quite a bit of circumstantial evidence for human travel across the Atlantic by the Phoenicians and/or Romans. It is unlikely there was any regular trade, but over the centuries a few ships may have been blown off course, and made a one-way trip. For instance, the bottle gourd [wikipedia.org] , which was used to store water on ships, crossed the Atlantic to Brazil right about that time. Most likely the seeds were brought there on a ship.

Re:Tag #WhereIsTheFuckingPaper (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47717417)

No way man, clearly the ancient Peruvians had a Marine Land where audience members kissed seals.

Re:Tag #WhereIsTheFuckingPaper (2)

kwyjibo87 (2792329) | about 2 months ago | (#47717457)

I am not sure I believe their theory. It is also possible that people brought the disease to the new world. There is quite a bit of circumstantial evidence for human travel across the Atlantic by the Phoenicians and/or Romans. It is unlikely there was any regular trade, but over the centuries a few ships may have been blown off course, and made a one-way trip. For instance, the bottle gourd [wikipedia.org] , which was used to store water on ships, crossed the Atlantic to Brazil right about that time. Most likely the seeds were brought there on a ship.

That would be easy enough to test, provided we had archeological samples of Phoenicians / Romans who were infected with M. tuberculosis (Mtb). Then, one could do the same phylogenetic analysis done in the paper that claded with the seal / sea lion Mtb sequences. Of course, the sequence analysis data provided in the paper would probably argue against your hypothesis, as Mtb sequences obtained from infected members of those civilizations would probably clade with modern European Mtb sequences rather than with seal / sea lion Mtb, which it would have to do in order to fit the data in this study.

Re:Tag #WhereIsTheFuckingPaper (2)

ruir (2709173) | about 2 months ago | (#47717463)

It is not only possible, but it documented Portuguese discovers, vikings, Chinese, and people far earlier where there. It was well known by Portuguese fishermen that using certain currents and winds you would reach certain places, however Portugal choose to keep that secret because of other European powers. So in reality, it would not be a one way trip for a few lucky ones.

Re:Tag #WhereIsTheFuckingPaper (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47717497)

Like the swine or bird flu, SIV to HIV, and even the recently popular ebola. (quote from /. reader rmdingler)

Viruses can originate from animals crossing over to humans. Between your post and known viruses that originated from animals both are plausible. I think that some scientists are trying to stretch out theories when it comes to where viruses originate, but this study should invoke thought not rejection.

Cross-Species Migration (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 2 months ago | (#47716879)

Like the swine or bird flu, SIV to HIV, and even the recently popular ebola.

Germs don't care>

They're as fair as they can be, equal opportunity infection agents.

hehehe (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 2 months ago | (#47716891)

But seals are sooooo cute! You just have to pet them with that blubbery body and cute whiskers and big, black eyes.

Re:hehehe (2)

Narcocide (102829) | about 2 months ago | (#47717083)

Just FYI; you don't catch tuberculosis by petting them.

Re:hehehe (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 2 months ago | (#47717259)

What about when they try to bite your hand off for assaulting them?

Re:hehehe (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 months ago | (#47717195)

But seals are sooooo cute!

Not all seals are cute. If you have a close encounter with a hungry leopard seal [nationalgeographic.com] , you will not think it is so adorable.

No problem (2)

PPH (736903) | about 2 months ago | (#47716923)

We have already undertaken an effort to eradicate the seals. We have found that the most efficient means involves hunters with clubs.

Re:No problem (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 2 months ago | (#47716993)

That is also the picture, that does not include a puppy or a kitten, that's most frequently used by the SPCA in cable fundraisers.

Come here little seal!

How unfair is Mother Nature that baby alligators do not promote the same level of empathy?

Re:No problem (1)

PPH (736903) | about 2 months ago | (#47717045)

Also in instruction manuals [photobucket.com] for lots of equipment.

Re:No problem (5, Funny)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 2 months ago | (#47717317)

"Looks like you've blown a seal." "Just fix it and leave my personal life out of this."

Re:No problem (2)

tepples (727027) | about 2 months ago | (#47717207)

That is also the picture, that does not include a puppy

Young seals and young dogs are both pups.

or a kitten

Now I get it: a seal pup looks cute because it combines most of the appearance of a dog with the whiskers of a cat and even shorter legs than a dachshund or corgi.

Re:No problem (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about a month ago | (#47719325)

Now I get it: a seal pup looks cute because it combines most of the appearance of a dog with the whiskers of a cat and even shorter legs than a dachshund or corgi.

Indeed.

And those short legs sure seem to work to the seals' detriment when they go clubbing.

damn those navy seals (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47716979)

Defund the navy seals! No budget for you.

Beaching animals (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47717059)

Dying whales have a tendency to beach themselves. There have been cases of beached whales being pulled back into the sea and then they go strait into the beach again where later autopsies reveal terminal illnesses. Now this article says that lung infecting bacteria travelled across the ocean in mammals. I'm no seal expect, but if dying seals "beach" themselves like whales, bacteria will have an easier time finding land based mammals (humans) to spread to.

Staving humans might have been interested in a seal, which didn't try to flee, which can explain the contact, but how did it spread to seals in the first place? and how did contaminated seals manage to cross an ocean? and can we be sure that it was seals and not whales or something other animals?

clubbing (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47717155)

so all that clubbing was retroactively justified.

Re:clubbing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47717221)

Certainly does explain how we got started clubbing those baby seals.

We be clubbin' (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 months ago | (#47717229)

What clubbing [ytmnd.com] are you talking about [ytmnd.com] ?

Damn those Christmas Seals! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47717213)

http://www.christmasseals.org/history.html

Canada (1)

AlecDalek (3781731) | about 2 months ago | (#47717219)

See why we hunt them here in Canada?

Re:Canada (1)

fatmal (920123) | about a month ago | (#47718441)

What's a fur seals favorite drink?

Canadian Club on the Rocks!

Since when (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | about 2 months ago | (#47717269)

Did U.S. Navy special ops engage in biological warfare?

human canine transmission (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 2 months ago | (#47717281)

There is evidence for human canine transmission of TB http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/artic... [cdc.gov] and dogs were kept in the Americas so the transmission path could have involved another animal in addition to seals.

Of course if it wasn't those darn seals... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47717611)

mycobacterium spp. are extremely common in soil these days. And where did we get this skeleton 1000 year old skeleton? Oh right....out of the dirt. I'ld rather support the notion that TB spread a bit more recently and through a vector different then harp seals...perhaps during the slave trade and colonial expansion eras? hince the huge literary references to consumption in the victorian days... I remember being taught as a grade school child that european diseases obliterated huge swaths of the native american population. So, I'ld expect TB being rather nasty would have been pretty darn bad in the mosquito laden vector swamps that we called South/North america pre-DDT.

Of course....maybe seals swam across the ocean and were the idea vector. (of course I dunno, this is why I flip burgers with my STEM degree)

How do you... (2)

Loki_666 (824073) | about 2 months ago | (#47718169)

How do you change SEAL into COAT in just four moves?

SEAL
CLUB
CLUB
CLUB
COAT :D

*pre-Columbian humans* ... (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about a month ago | (#47718411)

look, I'm just going to drop in and say that there's a loose scientific consensus on all kinds of pre-Columbian contact with the Western Hemisphere

that said, it would be odd if it was seals not humans

Those damn seals! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47718835)

Even my car engine was ruined by a bad seal.

pasteurize milk (2)

tomhath (637240) | about a month ago | (#47719227)

One of the main reasons we pasteurize cow's milk is to eliminate tuberculosis [howstuffworks.com]

. It shouldn't be a surprise that other animals could be a vector.

The pasteurization of milk didn't come into practice until the late 1800s. Back then, tuberculosis was commonly carried by milk. A low-temperature, long-time (LTLT) process, also known as batch pasteurization, was first developed to kill the tuberculosis pathogen. The incidence of tuberculosis contracted from milk fell dramatically, and in fact it no longer makes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's list of foodborne illnesses

TB or not TB (1)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | about a month ago | (#47720123)

Consumption be done about it? Of cough, of cough.
It's not the cough that carries you off. It's the coffin they carry you off in.

Thank you. I'll be here all week. Try the veal.

Obviously (1)

HaZardman27 (1521119) | about a month ago | (#47720571)

The disease originated less than 6,000 years ago

Well duhhh. To be any older than that, it would have been around before the Earth existed.

Oblig. Monty Python (1)

r_jensen11 (598210) | about a month ago | (#47721979)

What's the nautical speed velocity of an unladen seal?

Re:Oblig. Monty Python (1)

mwehle (2491950) | about a month ago | (#47722685)

What's the nautical speed velocity of an unladen seal?

Too sophisticated a question for me. I'm still working on what "speed velocity" is.

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