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Epidemiology

Aztecs were plagued by gastroenteritis

Bacteria may have been what killed millions of people in the 16th century in what is now Mexico, and contributed to the decline of the Aztec empire. The hypothesis was introduced by researchers from the Max Planck Institute in Germany, who analyzed the genetic material extracted from the teeth of 29 people buried in southern Mexico. Nearly all of them had died between 1545 and 1550 in an infectious disease outbreak that came to be known as cocoliztli, or plague. The DNA fragments they found were Salmonella enterica, a bacterium that causes serious intestinal infections (gastroenteritis) and may have been introduced to that region by European colonizers (bioRxiv, February 8, 2017).

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