Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ancient teeth bacteria record disease evolution

Date:
February 17, 2013
Source:
University of Adelaide
Summary:
DNA preserved in calcified bacteria on the teeth of ancient human skeletons has shed light on the health consequences of the evolving diet and behavior from the Stone Age to the modern day.

Teeth of late Iron Age/Roman woman showing large dental calculus deposit, from Cambridge area, UK.
Credit: Photo by Alan Cooper, University of Adelaide

DNA preserved in calcified bacteria on the teeth of ancient human skeletons has shed light on the health consequences of the evolving diet and behaviour from the Stone Age to the modern day.

The ancient genetic record reveals the negative changes in oral bacteria brought about by the dietary shifts as humans became farmers, and later with the introduction of food manufacturing in the Industrial Revolution.

An international team, led by the University of Adelaide's Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) where the research was performed, has published the results in Nature Genetics Febraury 17. Other team members include the Department of Archaeology at the University of Aberdeen and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge (UK).

"This is the first record of how our evolution over the last 7500 years has impacted the bacteria we carry with us, and the important health consequences," says study leader Professor Alan Cooper, ACAD Director.

"Oral bacteria in modern man are markedly less diverse than historic populations and this is thought to contribute to chronic oral and other disease in post-industrial lifestyles."

The researchers extracted DNA from tartar (calcified dental plaque) from 34 prehistoric northern European human skeletons, and traced changes in the nature of oral bacteria from the last hunter-gatherers, through the first farmers to the Bronze Age and Medieval times.

"Dental plaque represents the only easily accessible source of preserved human bacteria," says lead author Dr Christina Adler, who conducted the research while a PhD student at the University of Adelaide, now at the University of Sydney.

"Genetic analysis of plaque can create a powerful new record of dietary impacts, health changes and oral pathogen genomic evolution, deep into the past."

Professor Cooper says: "The composition of oral bacteria changed markedly with the introduction of farming, and again around 150 years ago. With the introduction of processed sugar and flour in the Industrial Revolution, we can see a dramatically decreased diversity in our oral bacteria, allowing domination by caries-causing strains. The modern mouth basically exists in a permanent disease state."

Professor Cooper has been working on the project with archaeologist and co-Leader Professor Keith Dobney, now at the University of Aberdeen, for the past 17 years. Professor Dobney says: "I had shown tartar deposits commonly found on ancient teeth were dense masses of solid calcified bacteria and food, but couldn't identify the species of bacteria. Ancient DNA was the obvious answer."

However, the team was not able to sufficiently control background levels of bacterial contamination until 2007 when ACAD's ultra-clean laboratories and strict decontamination and authentication protocols became available. The research team is now expanding its studies through time, and around the world, including other species such as Neandertals.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Adelaide. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Christina J Adler, Keith Dobney, Laura S Weyrich, John Kaidonis, Alan W Walker, Wolfgang Haak, Corey J A Bradshaw, Grant Townsend, Arkadiusz Sołtysiak, Kurt W Alt, Julian Parkhill, Alan Cooper. Sequencing ancient calcified dental plaque shows changes in oral microbiota with dietary shifts of the Neolithic and Industrial revolutions. Nature Genetics, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/ng.2536

Cite This Page:

University of Adelaide. "Ancient teeth bacteria record disease evolution." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 February 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130217134140.htm>.
University of Adelaide. (2013, February 17). Ancient teeth bacteria record disease evolution. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130217134140.htm
University of Adelaide. "Ancient teeth bacteria record disease evolution." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130217134140.htm (accessed September 18, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Cost of Ebola

The Cost of Ebola

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 18, 2014) As Sierra Leone prepares for a three-day "lockdown" in its latest bid to stem the spread of Ebola, Ciara Lee looks at the financial implications of fighting the largest ever outbreak of the disease. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
What HealthKit Bug Means For Your iOS Fitness Apps

What HealthKit Bug Means For Your iOS Fitness Apps

Newsy (Sep. 18, 2014) Apple has delayed the launch of the HealthKit app platform, citing a bug. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Residents Vaccinated as Haiti Fights Cholera Epidemic

Residents Vaccinated as Haiti Fights Cholera Epidemic

AFP (Sep. 18, 2014) Haitians receive the second dose of the vaccine against cholera as part of the UN's vaccination campaign. Duration: 00:34 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins