Molecular dating of human-to-bovid host jumps by Staphylococcus aureus reveals an association with the spread of domestication

Lucy A Weinert, John J Welch, Marc A Suchard, Philippe Lemey, Andrew Rambaut, J Ross Fitzgerald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Host species switches by bacterial pathogens leading to new endemic infections are important evolutionary events that are difficult to reconstruct over the long term. We investigated the host switching of Staphylococcus aureus over a long evolutionary timeframe by developing Bayesian phylogenetic methods to account for uncertainty about past host associations and using estimates of evolutionary rates from serially sampled whole-genome data. Results suggest multiple jumps back and forth between human and bovids with the first switch from humans to bovids taking place around 5500 BP, coinciding with the expansion of cattle domestication throughout the Old World. The first switch to poultry is estimated at around 275 BP, long after domestication but still preceding large-scale commercial farming. These results are consistent with a central role for anthropogenic change in the emergence of new endemic diseases.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)829-832
JournalBiology letters
Volume8
Issue number5
Early online date26 May 2012
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Keywords

  • Bayesian phylogenetics
  • molecular clocks
  • bacterial evolution
  • host switching

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