Revision of tuberculous lesions in the Bácsalmás-Óalmás series - preliminary morphological and biomolecular studies
Pósa, Annamária; Maixner, Frank; Lovász, Gabriella; Molnár, Erika; Bereczki, Zsolt; Perrin, Pascale; Zink, Albert; Pálfi, György
Previous investigations carried out in some parts of the 16th-17th century AD series of Bácsalmás-Óalmás (southern Hungary) have already provided interesting paleopathological cases of tuberculosis (e.g. Molnár & Pálfi 1994). These studies were essentially based on macromorphological analysis, biomolecular methods were used only in a few cases (e.g. Haas et al. 2000). From a macromorphological point of view, former investigations have only considered 'classical' tuberculosis (TB) alterations (advanced-stage lesions in common skeletal locations). However, due to the recent development of diagnostic criteria in the field of the paleopathology of infectious diseases, new approaches have been introduced in the identification of skeletal TB lesions (Pálfi et al. 1999, Maczel 2003). Molecular methods for the detection of mycobacterial aDNA have also been developed considerably in the last few years (e.g. Donoghue 2008, Donoghue 2011). The good state of preservation of the material, the important chronological period of the series and the relative high prevalence of TB reported in preliminary studies encouraged us to carry out a revision of TB-related lesions in the complete Bácsalmás-Óalmás series. A five year international research program - including both macroscopic and biomolecular studies of the series - was recently started. The present paper summarizes the results of a pilot project conducted to optimize the further systematic paleopathological and paleomicrobial studies. Skeletal material of 205 individuals was chosen for the macromorphological test-investigation, which was focused both on classical/advanced stage skeletal TB alterations (tuberculous spondylitis, tuberculous arthritis) and atypical/early-stage TB lesions (rib lesions, superficial vertebral changes, endocranial alterations, early-stage spondylodiscitis). In addition, the association of possible stress factors (long bone periostitis, cribra orbitalia, cribra cranii) were also considered. Paleomicrobiological analysis was used to study the presence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis ancient DNA (aDNA) in morphologically positive and negative cases. A comparative paleomicrobial analysis was carried out on different samples, to test the presence of MTB DNA in different skeletal regions.