Int J Paleopathol 2018 09 25;22:173-180. Epub 2018 May 25.
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California Santa Cruz, United States.
Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) of ancient dental calculus samples from a prehistoric site in San Francisco Bay, CA-SCL-919, reveals a wide range of potentially pathogenic bacteria. One older adult woman, in particular, had high levels of Neisseria meningitidis and low levels of Haemophilus influenzae, species that were not observed in the calculus from three other individuals. Combined with the presence of incipient endocranial lesions and pronounced meningeal grooves, we interpret this as an ancient case of meningococcal disease. This disease afflicts millions around the globe today, but little is known about its (pre)history. With additional sampling, we suggest NGS of calculus offers an exciting new window into the evolutionary history of these bacterial species and their interactions with humans.