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Institute of Evolutionary Medicine (IEM)

Medieval leprosy genomics

Summary of Research

Leprosy is one of the oldest recorded and most stigmatized diseases in human history. Widespread in medieval Europe, leprosy declined in the 16th century and subsequently disappeared from Europe. Today, over 200,000 new leprosy cases recorded annually, however the origins and past spread of the disease are unresolved. Here we use ancient DNA methods in combination next generation sequencing to trace back the diversity and distribution of leprosy’s causative agent, Mycobacterium leprae, to improve our understanding of the history the disease.

Facilities used

Clean room facilities, modern DNA laboratories, Functional Genomic Centre Zürich

Project Collaboration

  • Prof. Dr. Johannes Krause (Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History/Institute for Archaeological Sciences, University of Tübingen)
  • Prof. Dr. Ben Krause-Kyora (Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology, Kiel University)
  • Prof. Dr. Stewart Cole (Global Health Institute, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne/Institute de Pasteur)
  • Dr. Sarah Inskip (University of Cambridge)

Selected Published Articles