Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.


Did Cows Kill Keats? The Origin of Tuberculosis in America

Cows may have brought tuberculosis to North America long before Europeans arrived.

By Megan Mansell WilliamsNovember 15, 2006 6:00 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Bruce Rothschild, a rheumatologist at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, and Larry Martin, a paleontologist at the University of Kansas, have turned up fossil evidence that forerunners of cows brought the tuberculosis bacterium to North America long before European colonists introduced the disease.

Their analysis of nearly 1,000 ancient skeletons in university and museum collections showed that TB was spreading throughout the Americas via herds of cattlelike beasts called bovids around 75,000 years ago. But when they tallied the bone lesions that are characteristic of tuberculosis, they found that only bovids with origins in Asia—like bison, bighorn sheep, and musk ox—were afflicted. Bovids that were native to the Americas, as well as all other types of mammals, tended to be disease free.

The pair are now studying older bovid skeletons from Asia and Africa for more clues. "We hope to establish exactly when and where the transformation into the disease we call tuberculosis took place," says Martin.

    3 Free Articles Left

    Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

    Want unlimited access?

    Subscribe today and save 70%


    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In