DNA clues to malaria in ancient Rome
Posted: Tuesday, February 20, 2001
(BBC) Signs of malaria have been found in the skeleton of a child buried in a Roman cemetery.
British researchers say it is the earliest genetic evidence that the disease plagued the classical civilisations of Rome and Greece. The child was buried at a site north of Rome more than 1,500 years ago.
Analysis of DNA extracted from the infant's bones reveals signs of infection with the parasite that causes human malaria.
The DNA evidence provides support for the theory that a lethal outbreak of malaria in AD 5 contributed to the downfall of the Roman Empire.
"We can be fairly sure that the child died of malaria," said Dr Robert Sallares, of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (Umist), UK, who led the research.
"Ancient DNA research is a new way of investigating the history of disease," he told BBC News Online. "If we can do the same sort of work on material from older sites, we can determine when malaria entered Europe." [More]
Send page by E-Mail