Byzantine Woman Died Of Fatal Infection 800 Years Ago

Posted: Jan 11 2017, 11:43am CST | by , Updated: Jan 11 2017, 9:04pm CST, in Latest Science News


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Byzantine Woman Died of Fatal Infection 800 Years Ago
The skeleton of a woman who died 800 years ago on the outskirts of the ancient city of Troy in modern Turkey has yielded the first record of maternal sepsis in the fossil record. DNA locked inside the calcified nodules, found at the base of the chest and extracted by researchers, yielded the complete genomes of the pathogenic bacteria likely responsible for the woman’s death. PHOTO: GEBHARD BIEG
  • Byzantine Skeleton Reveals Woman Died of Maternal Infection 800 Years Ago

Researchers discovered maternal infection caused by bacteria in a Troy woman through DNA test

An archaeologist discovered bacteria DNA in Troy in a 30 year old woman's skeleton that shows infection. The discovery is based on a woman buried in Byzantine graveyard, whose skeleton became attractive for Henrike Kiesewetter, an archaeologist affiliated with Project Troia at Tüebingen University, as she saw two calcified nodules at the base of skeletons chest under the ribs. The nodule size was similar to a strawberry size.

Initially, the researcher thought nodule the tubercles that appears in tuberculosis, said Caitlin Pepperell, a University of Wisconsin–Madison expert on the evolution of pathogens and a professor of medicine and medical microbiology. Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that happens due to calcified nodules that develop in lungs or other areas. The DNA test of this nodule revealed it as tuberculosis nodules or kidney stones.

During examination, the researchers found strange ghost cells in the nodules that resembled bacteria named Staphylococcus that contains pathogenic species called S aureus. Nodules along with DNA was tested by

McMaster University’s Hendrik Poinar, an expert in ancient DNA who conducts a lab test for extracting and reconstructing genetic material from ancient archaeological and pale-ontological remains. Hendrik found that two bacteria named Staphylococcus saprophyticus and Gardnerella vaginalis, caused infection in woman leading her to death. The genomes of the DNA were enough to detect the cause of death in byzantine woman.

The research also shows Byzantine’s people’s life that existed 13th century before, and revealed the type of disease that was present in the Stone Age.

The study, in the journal eLife, clearly showed the ancient bacteria Staphylococcus saprophyticus that caused cholera, tuberculosis, leprosy, and plague.

The researcher said that such bacteria Staphylococcus aureus exist on human skins that becomes dangerous if enters the body, causing infection.

But, Staphylococcus saprophyticusis transferred through environment and the studied bacteria is not common in this age. As byzantine peasants used to spend most time with their livestock and got infection due to bacteria that easily transfers from livestock to humans and the environment, said Pepperell.

Researcher also said that people of Byzantine age hardly reached 50 because of infectious diseases and Trojan War. Tooth decay was also common in them due to rich diet, like dates and figs.

The discovered bacterium also shows that the woman was pregnant as during pregnancy calcification occurs as lots of calcium goes to the fetus.

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