Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Evidence of Leprosy in Ancient India

In a recent PLoS ONE article, Gwen Robbins and colleagues reported analysis of a 4000-year-old skeleton from India, which represents both the earliest archaeological evidence for human infection with Mycobacterium leprae in the world and the first evidence for the disease in prehistoric India. I think the authors need to have clear definitions of 'ancient origins' and 'historic presence'. Leprosy has clear origins from Africa as for tubeculosis (TB). After spreading from Africa the disease may have assumed endemic potentials in certain countries such as India. Therefore, the findings here should be consistent with our own research, published back in 2006 about TB, wherein we suggested that India was a historic cradle for mycobacterial infections and that she served as an ancient corridor for an early worldwide spread of TB. The authors did not cite our work; may be an oversight! But, I am more concerned that they as well forgot to refer to an important PLoS ONE paper which recently attempted to characterize about 9000 year old skeletons from submerged, ancient burials in Israel using paleopathology and DNA based evidence.