View Full Version : Pathogen for Major Epidemic That Ravaged the Aztecs

15-01-18, 20:50
Salmonella enterica genomes from victims of a major sixteenth-century epidemic in Mexico


"Indigenous populations of the Americas experienced high mortality rates during the early contact period as a result of infectious diseases, many of which were introduced by Europeans. Most of the pathogenic agents that caused these outbreaks remain unknown. Through the introduction of a new metagenomic analysis tool called MALT, applied here to search for traces of ancient pathogen DNA, we were able to identify Salmonella enterica in individuals buried in an early contact era epidemic cemetery at Teposcolula-Yucundaa, Oaxaca in southern Mexico. This cemetery is linked, based on historical and archaeological evidence, to the 1545–1550 CE epidemic that affected large parts of Mexico. Locally, this epidemic was known as ‘cocoliztli’, the pathogenic cause of which has been debated for more than a century. Here, we present genome-wide data from ten individuals for Salmonella entericasubsp. enterica serovar Paratyphi C, a bacterial cause of enteric fever. We propose that S. Paratyphi C be considered a strong candidate for the epidemic population decline during the 1545 cocoliztli outbreak at Teposcolula-Yucundaa."


Within five years, as many as 15 million people—an estimated 80 percent of the population—were wiped out in an epidemic the locals named "cocoliztli".

The word means "pestilence" in the Aztec Nahuatl language. Its cause, however, has been in question for nearly 500 years.


15-01-18, 22:28
This must've looked like the very apocalypsis for the Native American people of Mexico. I can't even fathom such a scenario. And all that due to a bacteria which killed more than any Spanish greedy conquistador.

That said, I find this claim that 80% of the population of the entire Mexico was killed in 5 years because of this "pestilence" hard to believe and certainly not confirmed by other data which estimate, in my opinion much more realistically, that 80% of the Native American population died in the entire 16th century (it'd still keep falling less dramatically in the 17th century), including several other epidemics, like those of measles and smallpox.

15-01-18, 22:34
I knew about measles and small pox, but I didn't even think of salmonella. These poor people.

15-01-18, 22:59
Many salmonella strains spread via infected food or water, and may have traveled to Mexico with domesticated animals brought by the Spanish, the research team said.
The introduction of these foreign species of domesticated animals brought by the Spaniards had devastating consequences.