I re­cently read that 95 per cent of the Aztecs were killed by Euro­pean dis­eases. So why weren’t Eu­ro­peans killed by Aztec dis­eases?

BBC Earth (Asia) - - Q & A -

De­bate has long raged over what caused the epi­demics that wiped out large sec­tions of Aztec so­ci­ety after Eu­ro­peans ar­rived in the 16th Cen­tury. The most dev­as­tat­ing epi­demics – called co­col­iztli – have been blamed var­i­ously on measles, small­pox and ty­phus.

Re­cent anal­y­sis of DNA from the teeth of peo­ple buried dur­ing a co­col­iztli sug­gests that Sal­mo­nella en­ter­ica may have been partly to blame. It is pos­si­ble to carry sal­mo­nella with­out fall­ing ill, so healthy Spa­niards could fea­si­bly have in­fected Aztecs lack­ing re­sis­tance.

Some sug­gest that Eu­ro­peans had some nat­u­ral dis­ease pro­tec­tion after a long his­tory of liv­ing in close quar­ters with do­mes­ti­cated an­i­mals and their waste. The Aztecs had few do­mes­ti­cated an­i­mals, de­pend­ing heav­ily on corn in their diet, which was sup­ple­mented with in­sects, fish and some wild game. They also had more hy­gienic liv­ing con­di­tions than many Eu­ro­peans, with a sys­tem of aque­ducts bring­ing in fresh wa­ter. AGu

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