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Key, Felix M.; Posth, Cosimo; Esquivel-Gomez, Luis R.; Huebler, Ron; Spyrou, Maria A.; Neumann, Gunnar U.; Furtwaengler, Anja; Sabin, Susanna; Burri, Marta; Wissgott, Antje; Lankapalli, Aditya Kumar; Vagene, Ashild J.; Meyer, Matthias; Nagel, Sarah; Tukhbatova, Rezeda; Khokhlov, Aleksandr; Chizhevsky, Andrey; Hansen, Svend; Belinsky, Andrey B.; Kalmykov, Alexey; Kantorovich, Anatoly R.; Maslov, Vladimir E.; Stockhammer, Philipp W.; Vai, Stefania; Zavattaro, Monica; Riga, Alessandro; Caramelli, David; Skeates, Robin; Beckett, Jessica; Gradoli, Maria Giuseppina; Steuri, Noah; Hafner, Albert; Ramstein, Marianne; Siebke, Inga; Losch, Sandra; Erdal, Yilmaz Selim; Alikhan, Nabil-Fareed; Zhou, Zhemin; Achtman, Mark; Bos, Kirsten; Reinhold, Sabine; Haak, Wolfgang; Kuehnert, Denise; Herbig, Alexander and Krause, Johannes (2020): Emergence of human-adapted Salmonella enterica is linked to the Neolithization process. In: Nature Ecology & Evolution, Vol. 4, No. 3: pp. 324-333

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Ancient Salmonella enterica genomes from Neolithic Eurasian humans compared with those from later archaeological contexts illuminate the evolving host specificity of the pathogen from an initial multi-mammalian adaptation towards an increasingly human specialization. It has been hypothesized that the Neolithic transition towards an agricultural and pastoralist economy facilitated the emergence of human-adapted pathogens. Here, we recovered eight Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica genomes from human skeletons of transitional foragers, pastoralists and agropastoralists in western Eurasia that were up to 6,500 yr old. Despite the high genetic diversity of S. enterica, all ancient bacterial genomes clustered in a single previously uncharacterized branch that contains S. enterica adapted to multiple mammalian species. All ancient bacterial genomes from prehistoric (agro-)pastoralists fall within a part of this branch that also includes the human-specific S. enterica Paratyphi C, illustrating the evolution of a human pathogen over a period of 5,000 yr. Bacterial genomic comparisons suggest that the earlier ancient strains were not host specific, differed in pathogenic potential and experienced convergent pseudogenization that accompanied their downstream host adaptation. These observations support the concept that the emergence of human-adapted S. enterica is linked to human cultural transformations.

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