STATES CHRONICLE – An 800-year-old skeleton of a Byzantine woman reveals the genome of deadly infection. The skeleton pertained to a female who was thirty years old when she died. The remains were unearthed outside the ancient city of Troy, situated in modern-day Turkey. After examining the old bones, scientists revealed proofs regarding the hurdles she faced living in a farming community dating back the 13th century.
What is even more surprising, it’s that they managed to discover the well-preserved genome of the ancient pathogen which caused the development of her fatal disease. Henrike Kiesewetter, an archaeologist at the Tuebingen University, Germany, has analyzed the remains of the 30-year-old woman.
Thus, she unveiled two ossified nodules located at the base of her chest, below the ribs. They were the size of a strawberry. At first, these nodules seemed similar to those who usually appear when someone suffers from tuberculosis. Nevertheless, Kiesewetter decided to send the samples to Caitlin Pepperell, a professor of medicine and microbiology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who is an expert on the evolution of pathogens.
Pepperell has analyzed the DNA and other microscopic and elemental tests. The results revealed that the nodules which caused the deadly infection were not due to tuberculosis or kidney or urinary stones. Scientists were triggered by the source of these nodules and decided to open the cells. They found very well-preserved microfossils which looked similar to the bacteria from the Staphylococcus genus. This genus includes the common bacterium S. aureus.
They sent the samples to Hendrick Poinar, a scientist at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada because he has a laboratory specialized on ancient DNA. Poinar claimed that the samples contained enough DNA data to reduplicate the genomes of two different species of bacteria, namely Gardnerella vaginalis and Staphylococcus saprophyticus.
These bacteria infected the 30-year-old woman and caused her death. Pepperell together with Poinar led the team of scientists to develop a portrait of Staphylococcus saprophyticus which probably resulted in the death of that woman. Pepperell declared she was amazed to see how the calcification created small rooms of DNA and carried it across a time span of approximately eight hundred years.
The preserved DNA which derived from the bacteria that infected that woman and got her killed appeared to be of about 31% to 58%. This permitted Pepperell and her team to extract even more significant data about the bacteria.
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