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7 November 2013
One of the oldest cases of tuberculosis discovered

Tuberculosis was present in Europe as early as 7000 years ago, according to Muriel Masson and colleagues at the University of Szeged, Hungary.
     Hypertrophic Pulmonary Osteopathy, a secondary disease caused by tuberculosis, is characterised by symmetrical new bone formations on the long bones, and is a rare find in the archaeological record.
     The study's authors examined 71 human skeletons from a 7000-year-old Neolithic site in the south of Hungary. Pathological analyses seemed to indicate that this population had been mostly non-violent, leading a physically stressful life, prone to infections and with a high rate of dental disease. They found numerous cases of infections and metabolic diseases, and some skeletons showed signs of HPO, and therefore potentially tuberculosis. They focused on one male skeleton in particular, aged 19 or 20, analysing the ancient DNA and lipids. Both tests confirmed the presence of the bacterial complex associated with tuberculosis.
     "This is a crucial find from a fantastic site", Masson says. "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."

Edited from EurekAlert!, PLOS One (30 October 2013)

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