As the world is fighting a global pandemic, a study on thousands of ancient skeletons showed how the human body adapted to fight disease and how the diseases also evolved and became less deadly over time. The conclusions may provide more data regarding how we’ll adapt to cope with future diseases.
The researchers behind a new study claim that it proves how germs mutate to copy and ensure survival across as many future hosts as possible. However, that behaviour also reduced the severity of the disease over time. In the end, the malicious microorganisms or pathogens end up reaching somewhat of a truce with our bodies.
Diseases like leprosy, tuberculosis, and treponematoses were analyzed during the research. They can all leave traces on bones and teeth, which are signs specific to infection, and thanks to numerous human remains and available medical records, and numerous human remains and the available medical records, which can be traced back for nearly 200 generations.
Anthropologist Maciej Henneberg of the Flinders University in Australia explained that each of the three diseases manifested a decrease in prevalence thanks to co-adaptation that is convenient for both the disease and the human host.
“In the last 5,000 years, before the advent of modern medicine, skeletal signs of tuberculosis become less common, skeletal manifestations of leprosy in Europe declined after the end of the Middle Ages, while skeletal signs of treponematoses in North America declined, especially in the last years before contact with invading Europeans,” he added.
None of the analyzed diseases kills the host immediately, which helps the pathogens to thrive and spread.