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PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2012;6(3):e1393. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0001393. Epub 2012 Mar 27.

Many neglected tropical diseases may have originated in the Paleolithic or before: new insights from genetics.

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  • 1Instituto de MicrobiologĂ­a Universidad, San Francisco de Quito, Quito, Ecuador.


The standard view of modern human infectious diseases is that many of them arose during the Neolithic when animals were first domesticated, or afterwards. Here we review recent genetic and molecular clock estimates that point to a much older Paleolithic origin (2.5 million years ago to 10,000 years ago) of some of these diseases. During part of this ancient period our early human ancestors were still isolated in Africa. We also discuss the need for investigations of the origin of these diseases in African primates and other animals that have been the original source of many neglected tropical diseases.

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