Wednesday, January 14, 2009

TB in the New World

A common idea exists that says that the crews of explorers like Columbus and Pizarro introduced tuberculosis to the New World. However, analysis of Peruvian mummies says differently.

Spinal tuberculosis, which is much less common than the lung-based form (about a 1:4 ratio), leaves distinctive marks on the lower vertebrae. By x-raying remains, archaeologists have found these marks on many mummies. This evidence, along with DNA analysis, proves the existence of pre-Columbian TB.

What other diseases did the New World have before Europeans got there?

Extra: It turns out that scientists have been hypothesizing about the presence of TB in the New World for a long time. Go here to read a 1947 article that will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about spinal tuberculosis and Peruvian artwork…

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