A Salmonella cause for deadly epidemic
In the 16th century, up to 80% of Mexico’s native population died from an unknown plague. In a new study, researchers at the Natural History Museum of Denmark report that the microbe responsible for killing a huge proportion of Mexican highland inhabitants in 1545 and 1576 may have been a form of Salmonella. Various scientists had previously suggested that the major disease outbreaks in the region could have been measles, smallpox, typhus or even a viral haemorrhagic fever. However, by comparing the bacterial DNA extracted from people buried in the region with a database of modern bacterial genomes, the Danish research team were able to reconstruct two genomes of a strain called Salmonella Paratyphi C. As this now-rare strain is transmitted through faecal matter, the chaos that occurred during the Spanish conquest may have allowed S. Paratyphi C to run rampant.