[S2] The spread and evolution of ancient infectious diseases

Susceptibility of world populations to infectious disease currently raises important public health questions. In a future-oriented, proactive world, it is of value to examine the history of those diseases for insights to their evolution and pathogenicity. Only some diseases leave their signs on hard tissues of the body - bones and teeth. Analysis of hard tissue pathological signs is complex, but necessary to understand impact of changing pathogen-host interactions on evolution of human anatomical structure, physiological processes and gene pools in the last few thousand years. Transcending previous speculation as to their origins, application of these validated methodologies not only permits recognition of the antiquity of treponemal disease, tuberculosis, leprosy and brucellosis, but also the evolution of the various species. The power of macroscopic evaluation and DNA analysis of skeletons from archeologic sites is revealed through evidence that endemic and venereal syphilis evolved from yaws. Similarly, evaluation of Pleistocene sites by macroscopic, DNA and lipid analyses revealed that Mycobacterium bovis evolved from Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Comparison of 'primordial' organisms with current resistant strains allows identification of loci which might be amenable to gene therapy, thus controlling infections in a manner not susceptible to the resistance development that limits the current antibiotic approach.
Organizers: Maciej Henneberg, Bruce Rothschild, Frank Rühli
Invited speakers: Helene Donoghue and Dong Hoon Shin