An International team of scientists has said that 6,000 years old bones excavated in Jericho may help combat tuberculosis.
Prof. Mark Spigelman of the Kuvin Center for the Study of Infectious and Tropical Diseases at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who is leading the Israeli team, says that the bones will be tested for tuberculosis, leprosy, leishmania and malaria.
He, however, says that the primary focus will be tuberculosis.
Spigelman says that tuberculosis, a deadly infectious bacterial disease that usually attacks the lungs, was well known thousands of years ago.
While the origins of tuberculosis and its evolution remain unclear, scientists believe that it came from the first villages and small towns in the Fertile Crescent region about 9-10,000 years ago.
Since Jericho is one of the earliest towns that dates back to 9,000 B.C., the researchers guess that the diseases might have had a good start in this community.
The researchers believe that examining human and animal bones from this site may help them see how the first people living in a crowded situation developed the diseases of crowds, and how this affected the disease through changes in DNA of both the microbes and the people.
They say that the most significant results of their efforts may come from a comparison between data for humans and corresponding animal remains that may allow the identification of animal-human vectors, and their interaction.
According to them, initial findings suggest that there is sufficient DNA in the bone samples to make a contribution to the scientific understanding of the origin and development of microbial disease, which may provide crucial information in the evolution of tuberculosis.
Spigelman says that once it becomes known how a disease developed 6,000 years ago, it will become a bit easier for scientists to understand what it will do as it continues to evolve, and will ultimately alter the practice of public health officials in combating it.
The researcher further says that the project will also help the Palestinians set up their own ancient DNA lab at Al Quds University.