7000 years ago: One of the oldest cases of tuberculosis discovered

Tuberculosis was present in Europe as early as 7000 years ago, according to new research published October 30th in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, by Muriel Masson and colleagues at the University of Szeged.

A disease called Hypertrophic Pulmonary Osteopathy is characterized by symmetrical new bone formations on the long bones. Based on the archaeological record, it has been suggested that tuberculosis might have caused HPO thousands of years ago. HPO is a rare find in the , making it difficult to verify this hypothesis.

In this study, the authors examined seventy-one human skeletons from a 7000-year-old site in the south of Hungary. They found numerous cases of infections and metabolic diseases, and some skeletons showed signs of HPO and therefore potentially tuberculosis. They focused on one skeleton in particular to verify this hypothesis, and analyzed the ancient DNA and lipids from its bones to do so. Both tests confirmed the presence of the bacterial complex associated with tuberculosis.

This is one of the earliest known cases of HPO and to date, and helps shed new light on this European community in prehistoric times. Masson adds, "This is a crucial find from a fantastic site. It is not only the earliest occurrence of fully-developed HPO on an adult skeleton to date, but also clearly establishes the presence of Tuberculosis in Europe 7000 years ago."

More information: Masson M, Molnár E, Donoghue HD, Besra GS, Minnikin DE, et al. (2013) Osteological and Biomolecular Evidence of a 7000-Year Old Case of Hypertrophic Pulmonary Osteopathy Secondary to Tuberculosis from Neolithic Hungary. PLoS ONE 8(10): e78252. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0078252

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Potential new drug for tuberculosis

Aug 05, 2013

A new drug capable of inhibiting growth of Mycobacterium tuberculosis is reported this week in Nature Medicine. The findings may improve therapeutic options for the treatment of drug resistant tuberculosis (TB). ...

FDA approves first new tuberculosis in 40 years

Dec 31, 2012

The Food and Drug Administration says it has approved a Johnson & Johnson tuberculosis drug that is the first new medicine to fight the deadly infection in more than four decades.

Recommended for you

Sierra Leone: WHO too slow to help doc with Ebola

7 hours ago

Sierra Leone accused the World Health Organization on Monday of being "sluggish" in facilitating an evacuation of a doctor who died from Ebola before she could be sent out of the country for medical care.

Dutch doctors feared to have Ebola leave hospital

8 hours ago

Two Dutch doctors flown home from west Africa after fears they might have been contaminated with the killer Ebola virus have left hospital "in good health," their employer, the Lion Heart Medical Centre, said Monday.

Strategic self-sabotage? MRSA inhibits its own growth

13 hours ago

Scientists at the University of Western Ontario have uncovered a bacterial mystery. Against all logic, the most predominant strain of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in North American produces an enzyme ...

US works to step up Ebola aid, but is it enough?

15 hours ago

The American strategy on Ebola is two-pronged: Step up desperately needed aid to West Africa and, in an unusual step, train U.S. doctors and nurses for volunteer duty in the outbreak zone. At home, the goal ...

User comments