TB Found in Ancient Bones
October 22, 2008 -- The earliest known cases of tuberculosis have been discovered in 9,000-year-old skeletons found off the coast of Israel, showing the disease is 3,000 years older than previously thought. Genetic testing of the excavated bones reveals they were infected with the human strain of TB.
The researchers from University College London and Tel Aviv University say this finding provides the best evidence to date that the infecting strain was actually the human pathogen in contrast to the prior theory that human TB evolved from bovine TB after animal domestication. They also say their discovery sheds light on how the TB bacterium has evolved and how we might develop more effective treatments for modern TB.
One-third of the world's current population is infected with TB, and new infections occur at a rate of one per second, according to the World Health Organization. Each year, there are almost 2 million TB-related deaths worldwide, the greatest proportion of which is in Africa.
In the United States, the number of tuberculosis cases declined 3.3 percent in 2007 to 13,299, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly half of the cases reported were in California, Texas, New York, and Florida. Hispanics accounted for 29 percent of cases, followed by Asians and blacks with 26 percent each. About six in 10 cases were among foreign-born residents.
A number of Institute of Medicine reports deal with tuberculosis. Ending Neglect: The Elimination of Tuberculosis in the United States urges U.S. policymakers to intensify the fight against TB by finding and treating people with latent infections and strengthening public health services. Tuberculosis in the Workplace discusses how TB remains a threat in correctional and health care facilities and other work settings in the United States and reviews the effectiveness of control measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Microbial Threats to Health: Emergence, Detection, and Response lists tuberculosis in the top five infectious causes of death worldwide. The report calls on national leaders to foster a systematic effort to combat infectious diseases at home and abroad.