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Seals Brought Tuberculosis to Americas

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Ancient bacterial genome sequences collected from human remains in Peru suggest that seals first gave tuberculosis (TB) to humans in the Americas.

Modern TB strains found in North and South America are closely related to strains from Europe, suggesting that the Spaniards introduced the disease to the New World when they colonized South America in the sixteenth century.

Beginning in the 1950s, however, palaeoanthropological studies found evidence of lesions associated with TB in pre-Columbian skeletons in South America. This suggested that a member of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex, the group of related bacterial species responsible for the disease, was present on the continent before European contact.

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