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Leprosy Strain Origins Traced

New tests on a skeleton dating back to the 5th or 6th century excavated from near an ancient British village some fifty years ago have found that the skeleton likely belonged to a Scandinavian man with leprosy, the Guardian reports.

Genetic analysis of the leprosy strain isolated from the skeleton showed that it belonged to the 3I lineage, but indicated that the strain is ancestral to ones acquired from younger, medieval leprosy cases in southern Britain and continental Europe, researchers from the UK and the Netherlands report in PLOS One. Lipid analysis also supported this lineage determination.

This, the researchers note, is the oldest confirmed leprosy case in Britain. Interestingly, isotope analysis of the skeleton suggests that the individual isn't from Britain and may be from Scandinavia where the 3I lineage also circulated.

This, the researchers say in their paper, "potentially supports the notion of a Scandinavian origin for the 3I strain which emerged in Britain."