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A case of spinal tuberculosis from the Middle Ages in Transylvania (Romania)

Hajdu, T; Donoghue, HD; Bernert, Z; Fóthi, E; Kővári, I; Marcsik, A; (2012) A case of spinal tuberculosis from the Middle Ages in Transylvania (Romania). Spine , 37 (25) E1598- E1601. 10.1097/BRS.0b013e31827300dc. Green open access

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Abstract

Study Design: Case report. Objective: To characterise the paleopathology presented in the skeleton of a 45-50-year-old male indicative of tuberculous spondylitis and to confirm by the detection of ancient DNA. Summary of Background Data: Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease prevalent in both present and ancient human populations. The disease is primarily located within the lungs, so although characacteristic bone lesions can lead to a clear diagnosis, skeletal TB occurs in only 5-6% of TB infections, even in historical cases. In addition, the visual appearance of human skeletal remains may be influenced by the environmental conditions at the burial site. However, it is important to recognise ancient skeletal TB, because this can provide important data on the history of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and gives an unique opportunity for physicians to observe the natural outcome of the infection from the pre-antibiotic era. Methods: Paleopathological analysis was carried out using careful visual observation supported by ancient DNA analysis. Approximately 60 mg of bone powder from rib fragments was examined and DNA from the M. tuberculosis complex was detected by PCR targeting specific genetic loci of the IS6110 and IS1081 regions. Results: The skeleton is part of a human osteoarchaeological collection (n=274) from the 12th-13th century Transylvanian archaeological site of Peteni, in modern-day Romania. The individual, a 45-50-year-old male, showed gross pathology typical of tuberculous spondylitis. The paleopathological diagnosis was supported by analysis for M. tuberculosis complex ancient DNA. Conclusions: This case demonstrates that TB was present in Transylvania (Romania) during the 12-13th century and adds to the growing body of knowledge on the history of this disease.

Type: Article
Title: A case of spinal tuberculosis from the Middle Ages in Transylvania (Romania)
Location: US
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e31827300dc
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/BRS.0b013e31827300dc
Language: English
Additional information: This is a non-final version of an article published in final form in "Hajdu, T; Donoghue, HD; Bernert, Z; Fóthi, E; Kővári, I; Marcsik, A; (2012) A case of spinal tuberculosis from the Middle Ages in Transylvania (Romania). Spine , 37 (25) E1598- E1601. http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/BRS.0b013e31827300dc"
Keywords: Ancient DNA, Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex, paleopathology, PCR, Skeletal tuberculosis, Transylvania (Romania)
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Div of Infection and Immunity
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1359818
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