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Scientists have found that malaria also occurred in ancient Rome

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Scientists have found that malaria also occurred in ancient Rome
Scientists have found that malaria also occurred in ancient Rome

Scientists first discovered evidence of malaria around 2,000 years ago. Malaria residues in DNA were found in Roman remains.

Scientists extracted genetic material from the teeth of 58 adults and 10 children who were buried in three Italian cemeteries from Roman times – the present-day Velia, Isola Sacra and Vagnari (all dated to the 4th century CE). Researchers recovered the mitochondrial genome that allowed them to detect a specific strain of malaria that the Romans died of.

As it turns out, the type of malaria is Plasmodium falciparum which is exactly the same disease that is spread by mosquitoes today and kills hundreds of thousands of people every year. Scientists say malaria was a serious nuisance for the ancient Romans. Researchers believe that as many people have died of malaria in Rome’s history as they are now dying in Africa. In 2015, 438,000 people worldwide died of malaria, while 91% of them were in sub-Saharan Africa.

Descriptions of this disease can be found in ancient sources. It is mentioned by Hippocrates or Celsus in De Medicina, but the ancients were not able to distinguish the disease unambiguously, because its symptoms (including fever) were characteristic of many diseases.

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