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18-19th century tuberculosis in naturally mummified individuals (Vác, Hungary)

Pap, I; Józsa, L; Repa, I; Bajzik, G; Lakhani, SR; Donoghue, HD; Spigelman, M; (1999) 18-19th century tuberculosis in naturally mummified individuals (Vác, Hungary). In: Pälfi, G and Dutour, O and Deák, J and Hutás, I, (eds.) Tuberculosis Past and Present. (421 - 428). Golden Book Publisher Ltd., Tuberculosis Foundation: Budapest.

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Abstract

265 naturally mummified individuals from the 18th-19th centuries were discovered during the reconstruction of the Dominican Church of Vác, Hungary in 1994-1995. The crypts were continuously utilised for burials from 1731 until 1838 and they were the traditional burial site for a number of middle class families. Seventy percent of the bodies were more or less mummified. The initial studies showed that there was evidence of suspected tuberculosis in at least one of these individuals (No. 60) as detected by CT and histology. Therefore, this and another individual (No. 33) were examined more fully taking precautions against contamination of the material to see whether or not the provisional diagnosis of tuberculosis could be verified. Tissue samples were obtained from the lungs (individuals No. 33 and 60) and the abdominal cavity (individual No. 33). Two other bodies from the crypts from the same period were used as negative controls (Nos. 65 and 73). The histology of the sections prepared from these tissues was surprisingly good and the basic architecture could still be seen in places. Many acid-fast bodies were visible both within the parenchyma and macrophages (Nos. 33 and 60). These were the expected size of M. tyberculosis, but cocco-bacillary in shape. DNA was extracted from the samples by a modiication of Boom's method (Boom et al., 1990) based on guanidium thiocyanate and silica. Taking stringent precautions against cross-contamination, a two-stage nested PCR was performed (Taylor et al., 1996) using the Eisenach primers (Eisanach, 1990) for the IS6110 sequence of the M. tuberculosis complex which results in a 92bp product. The tissue samples clearly yielded M. tuberculosis complex-specific DNA which supports the initial morphological findings. Though the first mortality data (from 1881) show that the eruption of tuberculosis appeared only in the late 19th century due to the late industrialisation of Hungary, our cases show that tuberculosis might have occurred a 130 years earlier and could well have been common in this population of the middle class population of this rural township. The study of ancient DNA from microbial pathogens is of growing interest, as it enables the verification of traditional diagnoses, may answer long-standing questions in the history of the disease and more excitingly, perhaps provides ancient DNA sequences that can be compared with those of modern pathogens.

Type:Book chapter
Title:18-19th century tuberculosis in naturally mummified individuals (Vác, Hungary)
ISBN:9638232846
Keywords:natural mummification, tuberculosis, bacteriology, histopathology, CT, PCR
UCL classification:UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Infection and Immunity (Division of)

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