Thursday, October 23, 2008

Egyptian Mummies Yield Earliest Evidence of Malaria

Discovery

Thanks very much to Rhio for forwarding me this story (Rhio, I promise to email soon!)

Two Egyptian mummies who died more than 3,500 years ago have provided clear evidence for the earliest known cases of malaria, according to a study presented this week in Naples at an international conference on ancient DNA.

Pathologist Andreas Nerlich and colleagues at the Academic Teaching Hospital M√ľnchen-Bogenhausen in Munich, Germany, studied 91 bone tissue samples from ancient Egyptian mummies and skeletons dating from 3500 to 500 B.C.

Using special techniques from molecular biology, such as DNA amplification and gene sequencing, the researchers identified ancient DNA for the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum in tissues from two mummies.

"We now know for sure that malaria was endemic in ancient Egypt. This was only been speculated on the basis reports by [the 5th century B.C. Greek historian] Herodotus and some very faint evidence from ancient Egyptian papyri," Nerlich told Discovery News.

See the above page for the full story.

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