Scientists just discovered evidence of a human DNA fragment in the genome of Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the bacteria that causes gonorrhea. Human DNA might explain why this particular bacteria is so good at surviving in human hosts — and human-polluted canals. According to Hank Seifert, who authored the paper on the surprising genetic transfer, gonorrhea is one of few diseases exclusive to our species. It’s also ancient enough that a disease with similar symptoms was described in the Bible. The reverse phenomenon — where the human genome contains relics of viruses from a past infection — is actually much more common. “But this is the first time that scientists have seen a bacteria pick up the genes, rather than depositing them,” says PopSci. The next step for scientists is to determine whether the human DNA fragment has helped gonorrhea, which has developed resistance to several drugs in the past four decades, adapt to its host.
This has been the first in Intel’s “Finding Common Ground With Your STD” series. Next up: “Like You, Syphilis Enjoys a Good Romantic Comedy.”