Genotypic analysis of Mycobacterium tuberculosis from medieval human remains.
Three medieval bone samples with osteological evidence of tuberculosis infection were analysed for the presence of DNA sequences from Mycobacterium tuberculosis using a series of PCRs. In each case amplification of IS6110 and part of the beta-subunit of RNA polymerase identified infection with a bacterium belonging to the M. tuberculosis complex. Amplification of the mtp40 genome fragment and the presence of a guanine residue at position 285 in the oxyR pseudogene, demonstrated the infecting strain to be similar to present day M. tuberculosis isolates rather than to Mycobacterium bovis. Spoligotyping, based on amplification of the direct repeat (DR) region of the mycobacterial genome, provided further evidence of similarity to M. tuberculosis and indicated a close relationship between isolates associated with two separate medieval burials. The study demonstrates the feasibility of amplifying multiple M. tuberculosis loci in ancient human remains and suggests important applications in the study of the palaeoepidemiology and virulence of tuberculosis in past populations. (+info)
Osteochondroma in a skeleton from an 11th century Croatian cemetery.
We present a case of a well-preserved bone tumor in a skeleton from a Croatian skeletal series dated to the 11th century AD. The tumor is located on the anterior side of the neck of the right femur. The gross morphology of the tumor - a round, lumpy, cauliflower-like appearance with a fairly smooth external surface - is consistent with osteochondroma. The diagnosis is supported by x-ray and CAT-scan findings, which show thickened trabeculae and an internal structure of cancellous bone interspersed with areas of dense compact bone. Comparison with x-rays from a patient surgically treated in 1999 for an osteochondroma with the same localization shows that the characteristics of the tumor have remained unchanged from the 11th century. (+info)
Detection of leprosy in ancient human skeletal remains by molecular identification of Mycobacterium leprae.
We isolated ancient DNA from skeletal remains obtained from a South German ossuary (approximately 1400-1800 AD) and from a 10th century Hungarian cemetery partially indicating macromorphologic evidence of leprosy. In samples taken of 2 skulls from Germany and of 1 hard palate from Hungary, Mycobacterium leprae-specific fragments of RLEP1 and RLEP3 were amplified using polymerase chain reaction (PCR), thereby confirming their specificity by sequencing. In another case, PCR with primers targeting IS6110 of Mycobacterium tuberculosis gave positive results only for a mandibular specimen. No signal for any mycobacterial DNA was observed in samples from 2 Hungarian foot bones. In ancient material, osseous involvement of M leprae may be detected and distinguished from other mycobacterial infections by specific PCR. In the small bones of leprous hands and feet, not enough M leprae DNA seems to be present for detection. This supports the view that rhinomaxillary leprous alterations result from direct bacterial involvement, while osseous mutilations of hands and feet result from a nervous involvement and/or secondary infections due to small lacerations of the overlying soft tissues. (+info)
Prevalence of large-joint osteoarthritis in Asian and Caucasian skeletal populations.
OBJECTIVE: To determine ethnic variations of large-joint osteoarthritis (OA) in past populations. METHODS: One thousand two hundred and nine adult skeletons, excavated from archaeological sites in Japan, China and France were assessed for OA as defined by the presence of eburnation. RESULTS: Within Asian skeletal populations, elbow OA and patellofemoral joint OA were more common in hunter-gatherers than in agriculturalists. Compared with Caucasians, the Asian skeletal population had a higher prevalence of tibiofemoral joint OA. CONCLUSION: The relative frequencies of OA within and between ethnic groups at certain joint sites have changed over time from the past to the present. (+info)
Are plague pits of particular use to palaeoepidemiologists?
BACKGROUND: The demography and pattern of disease of skeletal assemblages may not accurately reflect those of the living population of which they were once a part. The hypothesis tested here was that skeletons from a mass disaster would more closely approximate to a living population than those from a conventional cemetery. METHOD: Six hundred skeletons recovered from a Black Death plague pit in London were compared with 236 skeletons recovered from an overlying medieval cemetery. Age and sex were determined by standard anthropological means by a single observer and adjustments were made to correct for those skeletons for which either or both could not be established. An estimate of age structure of the living medieval population of London was made, using model life tables. RESULTS: The age and sex distribution and the pattern of disease in the Black Death skeletons did not differ substantially from those in the control group of skeletons. Both assemblages tended to overestimate the numbers in the younger age groups of the model population and underestimate the numbers in the oldest age group. CONCLUSIONS: On the evidence from this single site, a skeletal assemblage from a mass disaster does not provide a better representation of the living population from which it was derived than that from a conventional cemetery. (+info)
PCR primers that can detect low levels of Mycobacterium leprae DNA.
There are several specific PCR-based methods to detect Mycobacterium leprae DNA, but the amplicons are quite large. For example, primers that target the 36-kDa antigen gene and are in common diagnostic use yield a 530-bp product. This may be a disadvantage when examining samples in which the DNA is likely to be damaged and fragmented. Therefore, two sets of M. leprae-specific nested primers were designed, based on existing primer pairs which have been shown to be specific for M. leprae. Primers that targeted the 18-kDa antigen gene gave an outer product of 136 bp and inner product of 110 bp. The primers based on the RLEP repetitive sequence yielded a 129-bp outer product and 99-bp nested product. With dilutions of a standard M. leprae killed whole-cell preparation as the source of DNA, both single-stage and nested PCR were performed after optimisation of the experimental conditions. Compared with the 36-kDa antigen gene primers, the 18-kDa antigen gene outer primers were 100-fold more sensitive and the RLEP outer primers were 1000-fold more sensitive. As an illustration of two possible applications of these new primers, positive results were obtained from three skin slit samples from treated lepromatous leprosy patients and three archaeological samples from human remains showing typical leprosy palaeopathology. It was concluded that these new primers are a useful means of detecting M. leprae DNA which is damaged or present at a very low level. (+info)
Neurology in ancient faces.
BACKGROUND: Clinical paleoneurology is almost non-existent, but recognition of neurological diseases in ancient people might be possible by scrutinising portraits apparently representing people as they appeared in life. METHODS: About 200 mummy portraits painted in colour at the beginning of the first millennium were examined. Thirty two skulls excavated at Hawara in the Fayum (northern Egypt), where most of the portraits were found were measured, and nine caliper measures on each side of the skulls were taken. The right/left ratios were statistically analyzed by analysis of variance (ANOVA). One skull was subjected to 3D CT scanning and transilluminated. RESULTS: Two patients were found with progressive facial hemiatrophy (Parry-Romberg syndrome), three with deviations of the visual axes (tropia) and one with oval pupils (corectopia). CONCLUSIONS: Clinical paleoneurology is possible in the absence of a living nervous system. The patients probably had focal epilepsy, hemiplegic migraine, and autonomic nervous system dysfunction. (+info)
Molecular analysis of skeletal tuberculosis in an ancient Egyptian population.
A paleomicrobiological study was performed on 37 skeletal tissue specimens from cadavers in the necropolis of Thebes-West, Upper Egypt, (2120-500 BC) and four from the necropolis of Abydos (3000 BC). The subjects had typical macromorphological evidence of osseous tuberculosis (n = 3), morphological alterations that were not specific, but probably resulted from tuberculosis (n = 17), or were without morphological osseous changes (n = 21). DNA was extracted from these bone samples and amplified by PCR with a primer pair that recognised the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex insertion sequence IS6110. To confirm specificity of the analysis, the amplification products of several samples were subjected to restriction enzyme digestion, or direct sequencing, or both. In 30 of the 41 cases analysed, ancient DNA was demonstrated by amplification by the presence of the human beta-actin or the amelogenin gene and nine of these cases were positive for M. tuberculosis DNA. The results were confirmed by restriction endonuclease digestion and sequencing. A positive result for M. tuberculosis DNA was seen in two of the three cases with typical morphological signs of tuberculosis and amplifiable DNA, in five of 13 non-specific, but probable cases (including two cases from c. 3000 BC), but also in two of 14 cases without pathological bone changes. These observations confirm that tuberculosis may be diagnosed unequivocally in skeletal material from ancient Egypt, even dating back to c. 3000 BC. As a positive molecular reaction was observed in most of the typical cases of skeletal tuberculosis, in about one-third of non-specific, but probable tuberculous osseous changes and, surprisingly, in about one-seventh of unremarkable samples, this suggests that infection with M. tuberculosis was relatively frequent in ancient Egypt. (+info)