By Simona Giunta, Postdoctoral Research Scientist at Rockefeller University
Human ancestors, Homo neanderthalensis, who lived about 100,00 years ago, were able to self-medicate, showing knowledge of medicinal plants and their pain-relieveing and curative properties. A new study published yesterday in the journal Nature, discovered new evidence using DNA extracted from a tooth plaque. It contained traces of the naturally-occuring antibiotic, penicillin found in the penicillium fungus, and of bark roots and leaves containing salicylic acid, active ingredient in aspirin and other pain-killer. Because DNA from the same individual also reveled presence of a diarrhoea-causing pathogen and of dental abscess, scientists suggest that he may have been self-medicating to address these health issues.
Thanks to advancing in sequencing technologies, the study shows comprehensive sequencing of the neanderthal man DNA and its microbiome, portraying a novel view of Neanderthals and the society human ancestors lived in many thousands of years ago as more advanced than previously thought.
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