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Here is Bruce Rothschild’s final report from this year’s ISEMPH conference. Thanks Bruce!

Utilizing historical, skeletal and mummy investigations, evolution of disease through time provides insights into current diseases and new options for their control or eradication. Short term alterations of environment and socio-economic status clearly alter disease prevalence and impact. This is facilitated by persistence of disease macroscopic bone alterations through time and across phylogeny.
Evolutionary development of a form of inflammatory arthritis (spondyloarthropathy) is now tracked back to Australopithicus sediba. Enthesial reaction and subchondral erosions support that perspective.

The evolution of inflammatory arthritis can actually be tracked as a trans-phylogenetic phenomenon as far back as the Permian, 300 million years before present. This approach allowed identification of rheumatoid arthritis as a much more recent phenomenon, curiously in an area not conditioned by tubercular exposure. Variation in microbiome was found not to influence prevalence of the form of arthritis recognized as spondyloarthropathy in non-human primates, but actually altered its skeletal distribution, suggesting a disease-limiting effect of such agents as Bifidobacterium.

The challenge of recognizing treponemal disease on the basis of skeletal alterations was presented, addressing preconceptions and the importance of evidential criteria-based studies.

Evolutionary development of lumbar curves, short transverse and spinal processes, and disk alteratons associated with reorganization of epaxial muscles and increased trunk rotation capability, may be responsible for the 80% lifetime expectance of an episode of low back pain.