Indigenous people of Ecuador discovered an ancient adaptation to tuberculosis

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(ORDO NEWS) — Emory University scientists have found that the indigenous population of present-day Ecuador adapted to the bacillus tuberculosis several thousand years before the arrival of Europeans.

Previously, researchers have found evidence of the causative agent of tuberculosis in the bones of 1,400-year-old Andean mummies, contradicting some theories that tuberculosis did not exist in South America prior to the arrival of Europeans 500 years ago.

Scientists performed full genome sequencing using blood samples from 15 modern indigenous people living at altitudes of more than 2500 meters in several different provinces of Ecuador.

Biomarkers have been identified that are commonly present in people with active TB infection.

Biomarkers have also been found associated with adaptation to hypoxia, or low blood oxygen levels, as a result of living at high altitude.

Given the estimated timing of the selection of genes that promote adaptation, the indigenous peoples of Ecuador may have adapted to Mycobacterium tuberculosis three thousand years before the arrival of Europeans.

In addition, a population collapse was found coinciding with the arrival of Europeans, which is more severe than in other regions of the Andes.


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