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Could an African Disease Have Wiped Out the Neanderthals?

40,000 years ago, the Neanderthals became an extinct species, despite having been a driving force in Europe for thousands of years. A paper in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology suggests that the culprit, could have been a bacterium that led to stomach ulcers, that made them susceptible to a virus that ultimately killed them. This disease is believed to have been spread along by ancestors of the modern human who came from Africa.

During this study, researchers made another shocking discovery. Many diseases we believe are modern in nature, may have existed as far back as the Neanderthals. Without access to our modern medication and research, they would have spread among the populations and effectively killed them off. In this case, Helicobacter Pylori would have been the deadly bacteria, as it is believed to create these stomach ulcers. It is also estimated that the virus existed in Africa up to 116,000 years ago. Herpes Simplex 2 may have been around as long as 1.6 million year ago.

While research is linking a combination of these things to the death of the Neanderthals, it is important to note that it is possible another disease we are unaware of at this time could have also been responsible. While we may never know the actual reason for their extinction, one thing has been proven. Despite earlier research suggestion, Neanderthals bred with Europeans and caused the species to evolve to a hybrid, DNA has shown that there isn’t any evidence of genetic material in living humans to show that the two species have ever successfully produced offspring.

Still, it is very interesting to find that science continues to make significant progress in this mystery. Who knows what future generations might unlock and if perhaps we can avoid the extinction of our own species one day, by unlocking the mystery of the Neanderthals.

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