CRC 1266 - Scales of Transformation

F4: Tracing infectious diseases in prehistoric populations

Ancient DNA work performed in a clean lab
Fig. 1. Ancient DNA work must be performed in a clean lab to avoid contamination with exogenous DNA. Additional protective measures involve the use of overalls, masks and gloves. (photo: S. Kornell)

Infectious diseases are thought to have accompanied Homo sapiens throughout evolution. Many epidemiological changes may have taken place during important prehistorical and historical transformation processes. Project F4 aims to evaluate whether infectious diseases co-occurred with major prehistoric demographic and/or environmental crises. To this end, several hundred well-dated human skeletal remains will be screened for the presence of known bacterial and viral pathogens by capturing and sequencing their preserved genetic material with state-of-the-art molecular techniques. The obtained results will be compared with genomic data from present-day pathogens to develop models for the reconstruction of past and the prediction of modern epidemics.

Research activities 2016-2019

DNA analysis calculus
Fig. 2. Dental calculus precipitated on the lower premolars and molars. Dental calculus mineralizes during the lifetime of an individual so that DNA is extremely well preserved. (photo: S. Kornell)



Fuchs, K., Rinne, C., Drummer, C., Immel, A., Krause-Kyora, B.Nebel, A. 2019. Infectious diseases and Neolithic transformations: Evaluating biological and archaeological proxies in the German loess zone between 5500 and 2500 BCE. The Holocene 29 (10). Fuchs, K., Kirleis, W., Müller, J. (Guest eds.) Special Issue: Scales of Transformation – Human-Environmental Interaction in Prehistoric and Archaic Societies, 1545-1557. DOI

Krause-Kyora, B., Susat, J., Key, F., Kühnert, D., Bosse, E., Immel, A., Rinne, C., Kornell, S.-K., Yepes, D., Franzenburg, S., Heyne, H.O., Meier, T., Lösch, S., Meller, H., Friederich, S., Nicklisch, N., Alt, K.W., Schreiber, S., Tholey, A., Herbig, A., Nebel, A., Krause, J. 2018a. Neolithic and Medieval virus genomes reveal complex evolution of Hepatitis B. eLIFE 7, e36666, Genomics and Genomics, Microbiology and infectious disease, Short report May 10, 2018. DOI 

Krause-Kyora, B., Nutsua, M., Boehme, L., Pierini, F., Pedersen, D.D., Kornell, S.C., Drichel, D., Bonazzi, M., Möbus, L., Tarp, P., Susat, J., Bosse, E., Willburger, B., Schmidt, A.H., Sauter, J., Franke, A., Wittig, M., Caliebe, A., Nothnagel, M., Schreiber, S., Boldsen, J.L., Lenz, T.L., Nebel, A. 2018b. Ancient DNA study reveals HLA susceptibility locus for leprosy in medieval Europeans. Nat Commun 9, 1569.

Maixner, F., Krause-Kyora, B., Turaev, D., Herbig, A., Hoopmann, M.R., Hallows, J.L., Kusebauch, U., Vigl, E.E., Malfertheiner, P., Megraud, F., O'Sullivan, N., Cipollini, G., Coia, V., Samadelli, M., Engstrand, L., Linz, B., Moritz, R.L., Grimm, R., Krause, J., Nebel, A., Moodley, Y., Rattei, T., Zink, A. 2016. The 5300-year-old Helicobacter pylori genome of the Iceman. Science 351 (6269),162-165.

Rinne, C., Fuchs, K., Muhlack, J., Dörfler, C., Mehl, A., Nutsua, M., Krause-Kyora, B. 2016. Niedertiefenbach. Ein Galeriegrab der spätneolithischen Wartberggruppe südwestlich von Niedertiefenbach (Landkreis Limburg-Weilburg, Hessen). Praehistorische Zeitschrift 91 (2), 284-316. DOI

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