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Am J Phys Anthropol. 1979 Nov;51(4):599-618.

Human treponematosis and tuberculosis: evidence from the New World.


The purpose of this study has been first, to critically review the evidence for the presence of human treponematosis and tuberculosis in the skeletal remains of prehistoric natives in the New World, and second, to report on nine new cases dated to before contact and suggesting the presence of these two disease conditions. A review of the medical history and findings by human paleopathologists leaves little doubt that both diseases originated in the Old World. The findings of this study lend further support to the fact that, although rare, human treponematosis and tuberculosis were indeed endemic in the pre-Columbia New World before contact. There is no evidence that these two diseases could have arisen independently and de novo, especially during the relatively short time since man's arrival in the New World. Where a disease has been endemic for quite some time as appears to be the case with human treponematosis and tuberculosis, milder forms of the disease and improved host response could have developed in which only the most severe cases would be observable. This explains the rarity of skeletal lesions suggestive of these two human disease conditions in prehistoric human populations.

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