Saturday, August 08, 2009

The Earliest Known Human Infection

Yahoo News India is reporting on a study done on Australopithecus vertebrae which indicates that a bacterial infection was present. The story notes:

First uncovered in the 1970s in the Sterkfontein caves, not far from Johannesburg, two of the vertebrae belonging to an older male are dotted with visible lesions.

One study concluded that this damage was caused by ageing.

According to a report in New Scientist, after collecting X-rays and scanning electron micrographs of the bones, D'Anastasio now contends that brucellosis better explains the lesions.

Brucellosis causes a flu-like illness in humans, but if the bacteria reach muscles and bones, they tend to infect the same spinal vertebrae that are damaged in the Australopithecus bones.

Other infections, like tuberculosis, also infect spinal bones, but they tend to be less discriminate and go after other vertebrae.

As the story goes on to say, there is no way to know for sure how the victim got the disease but there are some possibilities.

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