Unveiling biological and sociocultural determinants on the coevolution of human tuberculosis and leprosy in the last two millennia through anthropological and genetic analysis of Portuguese skeletal populations

Duration: 2015 – 2020

Abstract: This research aims to unveil biological and sociocultural determinants on the co-evolution of human tuberculosis (TB) and leprosy (LP) through a pioneer study, combining anthropological and genetic analysis, of human skeletons from 33 archaeological sites on the Portuguese territory, covering almost two millennia, i.e. from the Roman period to the mid-20th century. Ultimately, it aims to test how a biocultural diachronic approach is crucial to understand diseases that are nowadays global public health concerns. The uncertainty regarding the future epidemiological scenario of TB and LP endorses paleopathological research to larify which evolutionary forces, of biosocial, cultural and demographical nature, including major historical and sociocultural landmarks (eg. Roman, Visigothic, Muslim and Christian conquests, Medieval Pilgrimage and Crusades, overseas expansion, colonialism, industrialization and urbanization) spread these diseases, and what impact different pathogenic strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) and Mycobacterium leprae (ML) had on past populations.

Coordinator: Vítor Miguel J. Matos

Financial support: FCT – Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia by EXPL

Reference: INV.EXPLORATORIA – IF/00186/2014