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June 22 2013

Leprosy, an ancient scourge, largely unchanged in modern era


Leprosy has plagued humans for thousands of years, but a new genetic analysis of the pathogen that causes the disfiguring disease has come to the surprising conclusion that its DNA is essentially unchanged since medieval times.

The discovery, published this month in the journal Science, suggests that the disease's retreat in Europe during the 14th and 15th centuries was probably the result of human adaptation to the bacterium that causes leprosy rather than due to any change in its DNA.

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