Evolutionary changes in the genome of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and the human genome from 9000 years BP until modern times

Mark Spigelman*, Helen D. Donoghue, Ziad Abdeen, Suheir Ereqat, Issa Sarie, Charles L. Greenblatt, Ildikó Pap, Ildikó Szikossy, Israel Hershkovitz, Gila Kahila Bar-Gal, Carney Matheson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The demonstration of Mycobacterium tuberculosis DNA in ancient skeletons gives researchers an insight into its evolution. Findings of the last two decades sketched the biological relationships between the various species of tubercle bacilli, the time scale involved, their possible origin and dispersal. This paper includes the available evidence and on-going research. In the submerged Eastern Mediterranean Neolithic village of Atlit Yam (9000 BP), a human lineage of M. tuberculosis, defined by the TbD1 deletion in its genome, was demonstrated. An infected infant at the site provides an example of active tuberculosis in a human with a naïve immune system. Over 4000 years later tuberculosis was found in Jericho. Urbanization increases population density encouraging M. tuberculosis/human co-evolution. As susceptible humans die of tuberculosis, survivors develop genetic resistance to disease. Thus in 18th century Hungarian mummies from Vác, 65% were positive for tuberculosis yet a 95-year-old woman had clearly survived a childhood Ghon lesion. Whole genome studies are in progress, to detect changes over the millennia both in bacterial virulence and also host susceptibility/resistance genes that determine the NRAMP protein and Killer Cell Immunoglobulin-like Receptors (KIRs). This paper surveys present evidence and includes initial findings.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)S145-S149
Issue numberS1
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • Ancient DNA
  • Evolution
  • KIR historical specimens
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • SLC11A1 gene
  • Solute Carrier family genes


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