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Nat Genet. 2013 Apr;45(4):450-5, 455e1. doi: 10.1038/ng.2536. Epub 2013 Feb 17.

Sequencing ancient calcified dental plaque shows changes in oral microbiota with dietary shifts of the Neolithic and Industrial revolutions.

Author information

1
Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.

Abstract

The importance of commensal microbes for human health is increasingly recognized, yet the impacts of evolutionary changes in human diet and culture on commensal microbiota remain almost unknown. Two of the greatest dietary shifts in human evolution involved the adoption of carbohydrate-rich Neolithic (farming) diets (beginning ∼10,000 years before the present) and the more recent advent of industrially processed flour and sugar (in ∼1850). Here, we show that calcified dental plaque (dental calculus) on ancient teeth preserves a detailed genetic record throughout this period. Data from 34 early European skeletons indicate that the transition from hunter-gatherer to farming shifted the oral microbial community to a disease-associated configuration. The composition of oral microbiota remained unexpectedly constant between Neolithic and medieval times, after which (the now ubiquitous) cariogenic bacteria became dominant, apparently during the Industrial Revolution. Modern oral microbiotic ecosystems are markedly less diverse than historic populations, which might be contributing to chronic oral (and other) disease in postindustrial lifestyles.

PMID:
23416520
PMCID:
PMC3996550
DOI:
10.1038/ng.2536
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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