Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Malaria Already Endemic in the Mediterranean by the Roman Period

27.07.2017

Malaria was already widespread on Sardinia by the Roman period, long before the Middle Ages, as indicated by research at the Institute of Evolutionary Medicine of the University of Zurich with the help of a Roman who died 2,000 years ago.

Even today, Malaria is one of the greatest medical challenges worldwide, killing hundreds of thousands of people every year. In the past, people have adapted to the threat of malaria in various ways. These methods range from interventions in the environment like draining swamps, to genetic adaptations in the human body.


Malaria was already widespread on Sardinia by the Roman period.

(istockphoto)

Quelle: Universität Zürich

Thalassemia instead of malarial DNA

Malaria was not eradicated on Sardinia until the 1950s. Until now, it has been assumed that the disease was only endemic on the island since the Middle Ages (500-1500 CE). Researchers at the Institute for Evolutionary Medicine of the University of Zurich have now studied the history of malaria on Sardinia in greater depth.

Since antique DNA (aDNA) of malaria is very difficult to extract, they studied thalassemia and other genetic adaptations in its place. Thalassemias are genetic diseases that interrupt the development of red blood cells. These diseases, however, have the advantage that many people affected lead a healthy life and are bad hosts for malaria pathogens. They are therefore partially immune against infections with malaria. Even today, such thalassemias occur relatively frequently in former malaria regions, such as the Mediterranean.

The Romans already suffered from malaria

The researchers headed up by Claudia Vigano and Abigail Bouwman of the human aDNA laboratory at the Institute of Evolutionary Medicine – the only laboratory of its kind in Switzerland – studied a thalassemia allele called cod39 β-thalassemia, which is dominant on Sardinia. They were therefore able to prove that, contrary to what has been known until now, malaria was probably already endemic on Sardinia in the Roman period, long before the Middle Ages.

The decisive evidence of this supposition has been provided by the 2,000 year old (approx. 300 BCE to 100 CE) remains of a Roman, in which the cod39 allele could be proven. “This is the very first documented case of the genetic adaptation to malaria on Sardinia,” Claudia Vigano says. “We also discovered that the person was genetically a Sardinian in all probability and not an immigrant from another area.”

Understanding the evolution of today’s diseases

“Our study shows the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to history,” says Abigail Bouwman, head of the project and the aDNA laboratory. “We are researching the evolution of today’s diseases such as malaria to explain why the human body becomes sick at all and how adaptations occur.”

Literature:

Vigano Claudia, Haas Cordula, Rühli Frank J., Bouwman Abigail: 2,000 Year old b-thalassemia case in Sardinia suggests malaria was endemic by the Roman period. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Doi: 10.1002/ajpa.23278

Contact:

Dr. Abigail Bouwman
Head a.i. Ancient Biomolecular Group
Institute of Evolutionary Medicine
Phone +41 44 635 05 20
E-mail: abigail.bouwman@iem.uzh.ch

Prof. Frank Rühli
Institute of Evolutionary Medicine
University of Zurich
Phone +41 44 635 05 15
E-mail: frank.ruehli@iem.uzh.ch

Beat Müller | Universität Zürich

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Enabling technology in cell-based therapies: Scale-up, scale-out or program in-place
23.07.2018 | SLAS (Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening)

nachricht FAU researchers identify Parkinson's disease as a possible autoimmune disease
23.07.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

The Maturation Pattern of the Hippocampus Drives Human Memory Deve

23.07.2018 | Science Education

FAU researchers identify Parkinson's disease as a possible autoimmune disease

23.07.2018 | Health and Medicine

O2 stable hydrogenases for applications

23.07.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>