Mycobacterium leprae genomes from a British medieval leprosy hospital: towards understanding an ancient epidemic

Tom A Mendum, Verena J Schuenemann, Simon Roffey, G Michael Taylor, Huihai Wu, Pushpendra Singh, Katie Tucker, Jason Hinds, Stewart T Cole, Andrzej M Kierzek, Kay Nieselt, Johannes Krause, Graham R Stewart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Leprosy has afflicted humankind throughout history leaving evidence in both early texts and the archaeological record. In Britain, leprosy was widespread throughout the Middle Ages until its gradual and unexplained decline between the 14th and 16th centuries. The nature of this ancient endemic leprosy and its relationship to modern strains is only partly understood. Modern leprosy strains are currently divided into 5 phylogenetic groups, types 0 to 4, each with strong geographical links. Until recently, European strains, both ancient and modern, were thought to be exclusively type 3 strains. However, evidence for type 2 strains, a group normally associated with Central Asia and the Middle East, has recently been found in archaeological samples in Scandinavia and from two skeletons from the medieval leprosy hospital (or leprosarium) of St Mary Magdalen, near Winchester, England.
Original languageEnglish
Article number270
JournalBMC Genomics
Volume15
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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