Leprosy may have origin in Europe, shows study

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Leprosy, one of the oldest recorded and highly stigmatised diseases, has its origin in Europe, scientists have said.

After examining 90 skeletons with deformations characteristic of leprosy found from the continent the scientists reconstructed the genetic codes of medieval Mycobacterium leprae, which is the cause of the disease. The skeletons dated back to 400 AD to 1400 AD.

The oldest among them belonged to Great Chesterford, Essex, and dated to between 415-545 AD, according to the study published in the journal PLOS Pathogens.

Many believed that the disease had the origin in China and the Far East.

“This latest research shows all the strains of the leprosy bacterium, were, in fact, present in medieval Europe, which strongly suggests leprosy originated much closer to home, possibly in the far south-east of Europe, or western Asia,” Helen Donoghue, a co-author of the latest work and scientist at University College London told The Guardian.

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