Notable: Tuberculosis strains in seventeenth-century Hungary

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Notable paper: Kay, G. L. et al. (2015) Eighteenth-century genomes show that mixed infections were common at time of peak tuberculosis in Europe. Nat. Commun. 6:6717 doi:10.1038/ncomms7717.

Synopsis: Gemma Kay and colleagues used a metagenomic approach to investigate the tuberculosis infections of eight natural mummified bodies from seventeenth-century Hungary. They found that five of the individuals carried multiple strains of tuberculosis, and that all the strains in these bodies are of types still present in Europe today.

Interesting because: Our understanding of the past epidemiology of tuberculosis has rapidly grown, mostly due to ancient DNA techniques. Last year, research on ancient remains from Peru showed that ancient people may have obtained tuberculosis from seals, only to be replaced by Old World human tuberculosis lineages in post-Columbian times. Research on historic remains from Europe, Asia and Africa will help to understand the dynamics of tuberculosis in those populations.