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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Mummy Lice Migrate Arounrd The World

Lice from 1,000-year-old mummies in Peru may unravel important clues about a different sort of passage: the migration patterns of America’s earliest humans.


DNA sequencing found the strain of lice to be genetically the same as the form of body lice that spawns several deadly diseases, including typhus, which was blamed for the loss of Napoleon’s grand army and millions of other soldiers, he said.

The discovery of these parasites on 11th-century Peruvian mummies proves they were infesting the native Americans nearly 500 years before Europeans arrived, Reed said.


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“This definitely goes against the grain of conventional thought that all diseases were transmitted from the Old World to the New World at the time of Columbus,” he said.


It came as a surprise to Reed and his research team that the type of lice on the mummies was of the same genetic type as those found as far away as the highlands of Papua, New Guinea, instead of the form of head lice that is widespread in the Western Hemisphere, Reed said. This latter version, the bane of many school children, accounts for more than half the cases of lice that appear in the United States, Canada and Central America, he said. ” link

Molecular Identification of Lice from Pre‐Columbian Mummies. 2008. Didier Raoult et al. Journal of Infectious Diseases electronically published 6 February 2008.