University of Cambridge > > Pitt-Rivers Archaeological Science Seminar Series > The Genetic History of the Plague: From the Stone Age to the 18th Century

The Genetic History of the Plague: From the Stone Age to the 18th Century

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  • UserProf. Dr. Johannes Krause (Max Planck Institute)
  • ClockFriday 23 October 2020, 13:15-14:00
  • HouseOnline via zoom.

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Alette Blom.

High throughput DNA sequencing has revolutionized the field of archaeogenetics in the past decade, providing a better understanding of human genetic history, past population dynamics and host pathogen interactions through time. Targeted DNA capture approaches have allowed reconstructing complete ancient bacterial genomes providing direct insights into the evolution and origin of some of the most infamous bacterial pathogens known to humans such as Yersinia pestis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis or Mycobacterium leprae. Here the potential of ancient pathogen genomics is discussed using Yersinia pestis as a model organism. Phylogenetic comparisons of modern and ancient Y.pestis strains spanning over 5000 years of human history from the Stone Age to modern times are presented. They provide direct evidence for the timing and emergence of major virulence factors essential for the transmission of bacteria by fleas. Some of the oldest reconstructed genomes of Y.pestis that are fully capable of causing the bubonic form of plague from the Eastern European Bronze Age are furthermore presented. Suggesting that the emergence of this form of the disease happened more than 1000 years earlier than previously suggested. Temporal studies of pathogens might thus throw new light on the origin of human diseases and potentially allow predicting and preventing further transmissions and dissemination in the future.

This talk is part of the Pitt-Rivers Archaeological Science Seminar Series series.

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