Biomolecular investigation of ancient pathogens in early human groups
The focus of this project will be on distinct infectious diseases relevant to the Near-Eastern area and the study of which the partners can be regarded as pioneers: tuberculosis, leprosy, brucellosis and leishmaniasis. We have a unique opportunity to study human and animal remains from Jericho, one of the earliest areas of urbanization dating back more than 10.000 years ago. We will use this unique material to molecularly investigate for the presence of tuberculosis by amplifying human pathogenic mycobacterial DNA and further subtype the mycobacterial strains and evaluate evolutionary processes by spoligotyping, strain-specific sequences and novel SNP-markers. The comparison between those data for humans and corresponding animal remains may allow the identification of animal-human vectors and their interaction. In addition, we intend to study the genes for susceptibility or resistance to the disease and determine, if these genes were altered in the time as preserved in the skeletal material. Apart from tuberculosis, we intend to examine the remains for the DNA of Mycobacterium leprae, Brucella and Leishmania where we have collaborative experience and established analytical protocols. The identification of those diseases which also have as yet unknown origin and sources will supplement the pattern of zoonotic diseases in the early town population. The major advantage of our study is that we have a founder population which may be quite naïve vis a vis bacterial exposure and a number of sites in the area with human remains from later periods can help us in following the evolution of disease, resistance and susceptibility.