Scientist May Have Come Across the Disease that Killed a Majority of Aztecs

Ted Van Pelt @FLICKR

There has been speculation for years over the high number of Aztecs wiped out in the middle of the 1500’s and scientist may have discovered the reason why.

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The Indigenous population was said to be wiped out by a strain of salmonella called Salmonella enterica, using new technology that was able to detect the traces in the bodies in a cemetery in the south of Mexico. Researchers are still attempting to find out if Europeans brought the disease when they came to the America’s.

A microbiologist in Norway discovered strains of salmonella in the body of a woman who was buried in the 1200’s. Although the strains have not been compared, there are those who believe that they could be similar pathogens. The exact number of people who died have not been recorded but it’s been said that it is an estimated 7 to 17 million people.

The technology being used to discover the ancient DNA in the bodies buried such a long time ago is called MALT. MALT is able to identify the very small fragments of DNA and then compare them in a larger scale by actually determining the name of the species.

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A scientist named Bos says, “ It offers a method of analyzing many, many, many small DNA fragments that we get, and actually identifying, by species name, the bacteria that are represented.” Scientists continue to conduct research to see the exact numbers and reasons why such a high number of Aztecs disappeared.