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Ancient genomes reveal a high diversity of Mycobacterium leprae in medieval Europe

Ancient genomes reveal a high diversity of Mycobacterium leprae in medieval Europe
Ancient genomes reveal a high diversity of Mycobacterium leprae in medieval Europe
Studying ancient DNA allows us to retrace the evolutionary history of human pathogens, such as Mycobacterium leprae, the main causative agent of leprosy. Leprosy is one of the oldest recorded and most stigmatizing diseases in human history. The disease was prevalent in Europe until the 16th century and is still endemic in many countries with over 200,000 new cases reported annually. Previous worldwide studies on modern and European medieval M. leprae genomes revealed that they cluster into five separate lineages of which two were present in medieval northwestern Europe. In this study, we analyzed 10 new medieval M. leprae genomes including the so far oldest M. leprae genome from one of the earliest known cases of leprosy in the United Kingdom—a skeleton from the Great Chesterford cemetery with a calibrated age of 415–545 AD. This dataset provides a genetic time transect of M. leprae diversity in Europe over the past 1500 years. We find four of the five known distinct M. leprae lineages to be present in the early medieval period, and three lineages were detected within a single cemetery from the high medieval period. Altogether these findings suggest a higher genetic diversity of M. leprae strains in medieval Europe at various time points than previously assumed.
The resulting more complex picture of the past phylogeography of leprosy in Europe impacts current phylogeographical models of M. leprae lineages suggesting alternative models for the past spread of leprosy such as a wide spread prevalence of different lineages in Eurasia already in the Antiquity or maybe even an origin in Western Eurasia. Furthermore, these results highlight how studying ancient M. leprae strains improves understanding of the history of leprosy worldwide.
1553-7366
1-17
Schuenemann, Verena J.
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Avanzi, Charlotte
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Krause-Kyora, Ben
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Seitz, Alexander
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Herbig, Alexander
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Inskip, Sarah
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Bonazzi, Marion
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Reiter, Ella
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Urban, Christian
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Dangvard Pedersen, Dorthe
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Taylor, G. Michael
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Singh, Pushpendra
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Stewart, Graham R.
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Velemínský, Petr
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Likovsky, Jakub
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Marcsik, Antónia
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Molnár, Erika
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Pálfi, György
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Mariotti, Valentina
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Riga, Alessandro
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Belcastro, M. Giovanna
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Boldsen, Jesper L.
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Nebel, Almut
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Mays, Simon
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Donoghue, Helen D.
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Zakrzewski, Sonia
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Benjak, Andrej
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Nieselt, Kay
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Cole, Stewart T.
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Krause, Johannes
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Schuenemann, Verena J.
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Avanzi, Charlotte
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Krause-Kyora, Ben
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Seitz, Alexander
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Herbig, Alexander
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Inskip, Sarah
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Bonazzi, Marion
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Reiter, Ella
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Urban, Christian
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Dangvard Pedersen, Dorthe
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Taylor, G. Michael
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Singh, Pushpendra
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Velemínský, Petr
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Likovsky, Jakub
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Marcsik, Antónia
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Molnár, Erika
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Pálfi, György
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Mariotti, Valentina
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Riga, Alessandro
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Belcastro, M. Giovanna
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Boldsen, Jesper L.
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Nebel, Almut
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Mays, Simon
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Donoghue, Helen D.
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Zakrzewski, Sonia
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Benjak, Andrej
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Nieselt, Kay
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Cole, Stewart T.
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Krause, Johannes
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Schuenemann, Verena J., Avanzi, Charlotte, Krause-Kyora, Ben, Seitz, Alexander, Herbig, Alexander, Inskip, Sarah, Bonazzi, Marion, Reiter, Ella, Urban, Christian, Dangvard Pedersen, Dorthe, Taylor, G. Michael, Singh, Pushpendra, Stewart, Graham R., Velemínský, Petr, Likovsky, Jakub, Marcsik, Antónia, Molnár, Erika, Pálfi, György, Mariotti, Valentina, Riga, Alessandro, Belcastro, M. Giovanna, Boldsen, Jesper L., Nebel, Almut, Mays, Simon, Donoghue, Helen D., Zakrzewski, Sonia, Benjak, Andrej, Nieselt, Kay, Cole, Stewart T. and Krause, Johannes (2018) Ancient genomes reveal a high diversity of Mycobacterium leprae in medieval Europe. PLoS Pathogens, 14 (5), 1-17, [e1006997]. (doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1006997).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Studying ancient DNA allows us to retrace the evolutionary history of human pathogens, such as Mycobacterium leprae, the main causative agent of leprosy. Leprosy is one of the oldest recorded and most stigmatizing diseases in human history. The disease was prevalent in Europe until the 16th century and is still endemic in many countries with over 200,000 new cases reported annually. Previous worldwide studies on modern and European medieval M. leprae genomes revealed that they cluster into five separate lineages of which two were present in medieval northwestern Europe. In this study, we analyzed 10 new medieval M. leprae genomes including the so far oldest M. leprae genome from one of the earliest known cases of leprosy in the United Kingdom—a skeleton from the Great Chesterford cemetery with a calibrated age of 415–545 AD. This dataset provides a genetic time transect of M. leprae diversity in Europe over the past 1500 years. We find four of the five known distinct M. leprae lineages to be present in the early medieval period, and three lineages were detected within a single cemetery from the high medieval period. Altogether these findings suggest a higher genetic diversity of M. leprae strains in medieval Europe at various time points than previously assumed.
The resulting more complex picture of the past phylogeography of leprosy in Europe impacts current phylogeographical models of M. leprae lineages suggesting alternative models for the past spread of leprosy such as a wide spread prevalence of different lineages in Eurasia already in the Antiquity or maybe even an origin in Western Eurasia. Furthermore, these results highlight how studying ancient M. leprae strains improves understanding of the history of leprosy worldwide.

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Accepted/In Press date: 28 March 2018
e-pub ahead of print date: 10 May 2018
Published date: 10 May 2018

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 420654
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/420654
ISSN: 1553-7366
PURE UUID: c0a67f31-b2c9-4568-9af3-b5b4fdb958e8
ORCID for Sonia Zakrzewski: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-1796-065X

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Date deposited: 11 May 2018 16:30
Last modified: 22 Nov 2021 02:49

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Contributors

Author: Verena J. Schuenemann
Author: Charlotte Avanzi
Author: Ben Krause-Kyora
Author: Alexander Seitz
Author: Alexander Herbig
Author: Sarah Inskip
Author: Marion Bonazzi
Author: Ella Reiter
Author: Christian Urban
Author: Dorthe Dangvard Pedersen
Author: G. Michael Taylor
Author: Pushpendra Singh
Author: Graham R. Stewart
Author: Petr Velemínský
Author: Jakub Likovsky
Author: Antónia Marcsik
Author: Erika Molnár
Author: György Pálfi
Author: Valentina Mariotti
Author: Alessandro Riga
Author: M. Giovanna Belcastro
Author: Jesper L. Boldsen
Author: Almut Nebel
Author: Simon Mays
Author: Helen D. Donoghue
Author: Andrej Benjak
Author: Kay Nieselt
Author: Stewart T. Cole
Author: Johannes Krause

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