News of the WeekGENE EVOLUTION

Cannibalism and Prion Disease May Have Been Rampant in Ancient Humans

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Science  11 Apr 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5617, pp. 227-228
DOI: 10.1126/science.300.5617.227a

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Epidemics of prion diseases--possibly spread by cannibalism--plagued prehistoric humans, a team proposes online in Science this week. Analysis of the worldwide distribution of the prion gene suggests that two gene variants have undergone "balancing selection" through exposure to toxic prions.