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Ancient urbanization shaped your immune system

Exposure to infection in ancient cities has helped to shape our modem immune systems.

The basic evolutionary theory: People who survive infection stand a better chance of having children and passing along disease-resistant genes.

Ian Barnes, study co-author and a molecular paleobiologist at University College London, screened DNA samples from 17 groups long associated with particular regions of Europe, Asia, and Africa-for example Anatolian Turks and the southern Sudanese.

Barnes analysed the DNA samples for a gene associated with resistance to tuberculosis (TB) and suspected of being associated with resistance to leprosy as well as to leishmaniasis, a reaction to sand fly bites, and to Kawasaki disease, a childhood ailment that involves inflamed blood vessels and can lead to heart disease.

In areas of ancient urbanization, it turned out, “we found very high frequency” for the TB-resistance gene, said Thomas.

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