Understanding historic pandemics through teeth
Arizona State University anthropological geneticist and Regents Professor Anne Stone spoke with The Washington Post about the significance of DNA found in ancient teeth. Anthropologists are using DNA evidence to learn more about the timing of disease outbreaks in the past, and how it compares to modern pandemics like COVID-19. Stone is an expert on ancient DNA, which holds chemical signatures about plagues and diseases from thousands of years ago.
“Now, paleogenomics — a nascent field that studies DNA in remnants of ancient teeth — is rewriting the first chapter of humanity’s entanglement with disease to thousands of years older than originally thought,” the Post reported. “The growing evidence suggests that these first epidemics forced societies to make epoch-defining transformations.”
“In the case of COVID-19 (the disease caused by the coronavirus), we see similar processes, but we are watching it unfold in real time,” Stone said.