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Title: Attempted ancient DNA detection of Plasmodium vivax in medieval and post-medieval Britain
Author: Pinello, Christie
ISNI:       0000 0004 2671 0449
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2008
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From social impacts to genetic mutations, malaria has greatly affected our species. Plasmodium vivax, one of the causative agents of human malaria, is of particular interest due to its widespread global dispersion and seemingly benign effects, the significance of which are increasingly becoming more apparent. Molecular genetics can be applied to the analysis of past populations in an attempt to better understand the changing nature of disease over time. This project aimed to assess the extent that it is possible to use ancient DNA sequencing to study changes in the molecular diversity of P. vivax in medieval and post-medieval England. Historical records from this time suggest that P. vivax dramatically changed in virulence from the 13th to the 19th centuries, causing mortality levels in marshland areas to peak in the 1600's. The analysis of ancient Plasmodium DNA extracted from the bones of individuals dating to these centuries allows us to explore changes in parasite structure and virulence, while also assessing the extent to which it is possible to use ancient DNA techniques to study changes in the molecular diversity of the parasite. As P. vivax leaves no pathological change in bone, biomolecular techniques provide the only method for a conclusive retrospective diagnosis. Ancient DNA extracted from the rib bones of 159 skeletons was screened for the presence of P. vivax using optimized PCR systems and DNA sequencing. Segments of the malarial 18S rRNA and cytochrome b genes, and the human mtDNA HVR1 regions were amplified, cloned and sequenced. There was no evidence for the presence of P. vivax in any of the bones, however P. falciparum DNA was detected in one, possibly two, bones and human DNA detected in 16 bones. This suggests poor pathogen DNA survival and/or inadequate current techniques. The results of this study highlight specific areas of aDNA research that need to be addressed to increase the effectiveness and utility of aDNA research. These include sample contamination, preferential microbial DNA amplification, PCR specificity, and the incorporation and survival of pathogen and endogenous DNA in bone. Ancient DNA techniques have great potential to make significant contributions to palaeodisease research. However, further development is needed before they can reliably and efficiently be applied to P. vivax aDNA studies.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available