Scientists have procured confirmatory evidence of tuberculosis after conducting detailed analyses of the bones excavated from a 9000 year-old Pre-Pottery Neolithic village, submerged off the coast of Haifa in Israel.
Research collaborators from University College London and Tel-Aviv University said that their study suggested that human tuberculosis in bones is about 3,000 years older than previously thought.
They said that their findings also confirmed the latest theory that bovine TB evolved later than human TB.
"What is fascinating is that the infecting organism is definitely the human strain of tuberculosis, in contrast to the original theory that human TB evolved from bovine TB after animal domestication," said Dr Helen Donoghue, a researcher from the UCL Centre for Infectious Diseases and International Health.
"This gives us the best evidence yet that in a community with domesticated animals but before dairying, the infecting strain was actually the human pathogen. The presence of large numbers of animal bones shows that animals were an important food source, and this probably led to an increase in the human population that helped the TB to be maintained and spread," the researcher added.
In their study report, published in the journal PLoS One, the researcher said that the bones seemed to be of a mother and baby.
They said that their findings might shed light on how the TB bacterium has evolved over the millennia, and how it might change in the future.
"We were also able to show that the DNA of the strain of TB in these skeletons had lost a particular piece of DNA which is characteristic of a common family of strains present in the world today. The fact that this deletion had occurred 9000 years ago gives us a much better idea of the rate of change of the bacterium over time, and indicates an extremely long association with humans," Dr. Donoghue said.
Dr Mark Spigelman, who led the study with Dr. Donoghue, added: "Examining ancient human remains for the markers of TB is very important because it helps to aid our understanding of prehistoric tuberculosis and how it evolved. This then helps us improve our understanding of modern TB and how we might develop more effective treatments."