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Research team discovers medicinal effect of ancient beer

Two Emory lead researchers discovered that ancient beers may have possessed antibiotic properties, according a University press release published last Monday.

As part of an ongoing study, Goodrich C. White Professor of Anthropology George Armelagos and medicinal chemist Mark Nelson have found evidence that ancient Nubians, who lived in present-day Sudan between A.D. 350 and A.D. 550, regularly consumed tetracycline, most likely in their beer.

Tetracycline is a broad-spectrum antibiotic used to treat a variety of bacterial infections, including acne inflammation and respiratory tract infections.

Armelagos said he accidentally discovered tetracycline in ancient Nubian bones when analyzing bone density using fluorescent microscopy in 1975.

Initially, he was not convinced of his discovery but later received affirmation from a graduate student.

“My heart stopped,” Armelagos said of his initial reaction.

This class of tetracycline antibiotics was first discovered in 1948. But beer-making and antibiotics have been around since the ancient Nubians’ time period, Armelagos said. He added that such knowledge has been supported by evidence found among the ancient Wadi Halfa population in Northern Sudan.

Read the full story at the Emory Wheel.

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