Evolution of Tuberculosis: New Insights and Facts

Evolution of Tuberculosis – Recent research suggests that tuberculosis infection in humans may have emerged much earlier than previously thought, potentially tens of thousands of years before the earliest known cases in the Middle East. This exciting discovery is the result of a collaboration between Hungarian researchers and an international team, published in a special issue of the journal Tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis, often shortened to TB, is a serious infectious disease caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It typically affects the lungs, but can also spread to other parts of the body like the brain, kidneys, and spine.

It spreads through the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, sings, or laughs. You can inhale the bacteria and become infected.

Common symptoms include:

  • Persistent cough (lasting more than 3 weeks)
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain

Symptoms can vary depending on the location of the infection.

Key Points

  • New evidence: Analysis of Neanderthal remains from Subalyuk cave in Hungary, dating back over 32,000 years, suggests the presence of TB infection. This pushes back the known timeline for TB in humans by tens of thousands of years.
  • Hungarian researchers at the forefront: The Department of Biological Anthropology at the University of Szeged and Eötvös Loránd University have played a crucial role in uncovering these new findings, making the Carpathian Basin the best-researched region globally for ancient TB.
  • Comprehensive database: The special issue features detailed studies on 18 previously known and 7 newly identified cases of TB from within Hungary, spanning from the Bronze Age to the 16th century. This comprehensive database provides valuable insights into the evolution and manifestation of the disease.
  • International collaboration: The research is the result of a successful collaboration between Hungarian researchers, the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Eötvös Loránd University, Université Paris-Saclay, and Eurac Research.
  • Open access: Five of the studies are Open Access and will remain available for download until January 14, 2024.


  • This groundbreaking research sheds new light on the history and evolution of tuberculosis, offering valuable insights for future studies and potentially paving the way for improved diagnostics and treatment.
  • The collaboration highlights the importance of international cooperation in scientific research and the potential for outstanding results when diverse expertise is combined.

Further Resources:

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