Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Pre-Columbian Origins for North American Anthrax

By Leo J. Kenefic, Talima Pearson, Richard T. Okinaka, James M. Schupp, David M. Wagner, Jacques Ravel, Alex R. Hoffmaster, Carla P. Trim, Wai-Kwan Chung, Jodi A. Beaudry, Jeffrey T. Foster, James I. Mead and Paul Keim


Disease introduction into the New World during colonial expansion is well documented and had a major impact on indigenous populations; however, few diseases have been associated with early human migrations into North America. During the late Pleistocene epoch, Asia and North America were joined by the Beringian Steppe ecosystem which allowed animals and humans to freely cross what would become a water barrier in the Holocene. Anthrax has clearly been shown to be dispersed by human commerce and trade in animal products contaminated with Bacillus anthracis spores. Humans appear to have brought B. anthracis to this area from Asia and then moved it further south as an ice-free corridor opened in central Canada ∼13,000 ybp. In this study, we have defined the evolutionary history of Western North American (WNA) anthrax using 2,850 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and 285 geographically diverse B. anthracis isolates. Phylogeography of the major WNA B. anthracis clone reveals ancestral populations in northern Canada with progressively derived populations to the south; the most recent ancestor of this clonal lineage is in Eurasia. Our phylogeographic patterns are consistent with B. anthracis arriving with humans via the Bering Land Bridge. This northern-origin hypothesis is highly consistent with our phylogeographic patterns and rates of SNP accumulation observed in current day B. anthracis isolates. Continent-wide dispersal of WNA B. anthracis likely required movement by later European colonizers, but the continent's first inhabitants may have seeded the initial North American populations

Topics: Research Article
Publisher: Public Library of Science
OAI identifier:
Provided by: PubMed Central
Download PDF:
Sorry, we are unable to provide the full text but you may find it at the following location(s):
  • http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.g... (external link)
  • Suggested articles


    1. (1959). A history of anthrax.
    2. (1955). A history of plague in the United States of America.
    3. (2007). An African origin for the intimate association between humans and Helicobacter pylori.
    4. (2002). An epidemic of inhalation anthrax, the first in the twentieth century: I. Clinical features.
    5. (2001). An Overview of Early Anthrax Outbreaks in Northern Canada: Field Reports of the Health of Animals Branch,
    6. (1958). Anthrax and bone-meal fertiliser.
    7. (2004). Detecting Traces of Prehistoric Human Migrations by Geographic Synthetic Maps of Polyomavirus JC.
    8. (2002). Epidemic dengue/dengue hemorrhagic fever as a public health, social and economic problem in the 21st century.
    9. (2008). Evolution, population structure, and phylogeography of genetically monomorphic bacterial pathogens.
    10. (1990). Frozen Fauna of the Mammoth Steppe: The Story of Blue Babe.
    11. (2006). Genomes of Helicobacter pylori from native Peruvians suggest admixture of ancestral and modern lineages and reveal a western type cag-pathogenicity island.
    12. (2007). Global genetic population structure of Bacillus anthracis.
    13. (2006). Inhalation anthrax associated with dried animal hides– Pennsylvania and
    14. (2007). Modeling the geographic distribution of Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax disease, for the contiguous united states using predictive ecologic niche modeling.
    15. (2005). Natural dissemination of Bacillus anthracis spores in northern Canada.
    16. (2005). Origin and primary dispersal of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis Beijing genotype: clues from human phylogeography.
    17. (2003). Phylogenetic Analysis Using Parsimony
    18. (2004). Phylogenetic discovery bias in Bacillus anthracis using single-nucleotide polymorphisms from whole-genome sequencing.
    19. (1940). Plague in the western part of the United States.
    20. (2008). Recent Texas Isolates are Near-Relatives to the Bacillus anthracis Ames strain. Emerg Infect Dis;
    21. (2004). Rise and fall of the Beringian steppe bison.
    22. (2007). Strain-specific single-nucleotide polymorphism assays for the Bacillus anthracis Ames strain.
    23. (1959). The earliest account of anthrax in man and animals in North America.
    24. (2004). The phylogeography of human viruses.

    To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.