Science » Technologies and discoveries
Author`s name Ольга Савка

Tuberculosis appeared on Earth three million years ago

Tuberculosis or consumption is much older than plague, typhus and malaria

There are medicines for almost every illness in the XXI century. However, some diseases still can be neither prevented nor cured. It is not only AIDS and cancer, but tuberculosis as well. Although the problem of mass consumption is practically solved in developed countries, there is still Third World left. Meantime, on the whole this disease mows down three million people yearly. Scientists cannot help but be concerned with the origins of the virus and its possible treatment. Finally, French researchers went public with the results of their scientific studies.

Previous research of the virus's DNA showed that the disease had appeared 35 thousand years ago. However, French scientists studied a special type of bacterium that causes tuberculosis in Eastern Africa. Specialists draw the conclusion that the “southern” virus can be much older, with other types of bacterium originating from it.

Scientists presume that the TB virus, which originated three million years ago in Eastern Africa, spread on the planet through people's migrations.

If the French scientists are right, it turns out that tuberculosis or consumption (as it was called in the XIX century) is much older than plague, typhus and malaria. It also means that even very remote ancestors of humans could have suffered from this disease. Besides, new discovery can help scientists in developing new medicine that will be able to cure and prevent the disease. The problem is that the virus quickly adjusts to the medicines, which are used to treat it. 

Meanwhile, Canadian scientists from the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal managed to extract a gene that controls the speed of progress and course of tuberculosis. According to microbiologists every third person on the planet is infected with the virus, but only 5-10 percent of the carriers fall ill. And now specialists found the key that starts the mechanism of the disease.

Researchers directed their attention to the NRAMP1 gene, which is known to be closely related to many diseases, including those that are really different like leprosy and atrophic arthritis. It turned out that the variants of NRAMP1 gene control the speed of tuberculosis progress and also whether the disease will progress at all. “This is the first time a gene has been shown to control the time frame between initial infection and the disease,” scientists pointed out.

For reference, tuberculosis is caused by the bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The disease is characterized with the following symptoms: violent cough, loss of appetite, fever and heavy perspiration at nights.

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