Researchers using ‘metagenomics’, the open-ended sequencing of DNA from samples without the need for culture or target-specific amplification or enrichment, have recovered tuberculosis (TB) genomes from the lung tissue of a 215-year old mummy using a technique known as metagenomics.
Metagenomics avoids the complex and unreliable workflows associated with culture of bacteria or amplification of DNA and benefits from the throughput and ease of use of modern sequencing approaches. The researchers sought to use the technique to identify TB DNA in a historical specimen and the sample came from a Hungarian woman, Terézia Hausmann, who died aged 28 on Christmas Day in 1797. Her mummified remains were recovered from a crypt in the town of Vác, Hungary. When the crypt was opened in 1994, it was found to contain the naturally mummified bodies of 242 people.
Molecular analyses of the chest sample in a previous study confirmed the diagnosis of tuberculosis and hinted that TB DNA was extremely well preserved in her body.
Professor Mark Pallen, Professor of Microbial Genomics at Warwick Medical School
said, “Most other attempts to recover DNA sequences from historical or ancient samples have suffered from the risk of contamination, because they rely on amplification of DNA in the laboratory, plus they have required onerous optimisation of target-specific assays. The beauty of metagenomics is that it provides a simple but highly informative, assumption-free, one-size-fits-all approach that works in a wide variety of contexts. A few months ago we showed that metagenomics allowed us to identify an E. coli outbreak strains from faecal samples and a few weeks ago a similar approach was shown by another group to deliver a leprosy genome from historical material.”
The research found that Terézia Hausmann suffered from a mixed infection with two different strains of the TB bacterium. This information, combined with work on contemporary tuberculosis, highlights the significance of mixed-strain infections, particularly when tuberculosis is highly prevalent.
Pallen added, “It was fascinating to see the similarities between the TB genome sequences we recovered and the genome of a recent outbreak strain in Germany. It shows once more that using metagenomics can be remarkably effective in tracking the evolution and spread of microbes without the need for culture—in this case, metagenomes revealed that some strain lineages have been circulating in Europe for more than two centuries.”
Citation: Chan, Jacqueline; Sergeant, Martin; Lee, Oona; Minnikin, David; Besra, Guyrdal; Pap, Ildikó; Spigelman, Mark; Donoghue, Helen; Pallen, Mark, "Postmortem Investigation of TB in Mummy by Metagenomics" The New England Journal of Medicine #13-02295 DOI:13-02295.R1
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Single Top Production At The LHC
- Dietary Restriction, Circadian Rhythm, And Long Life
- Our Ethical Responsibilities To Baby Terraformed Worlds - Like Parents
- Supersymmetry Is About To Be Discovered, Kane Says
- Anomaly! - A Different Particle Physics Book
- Like Human Civilization? Thank Our Evil Side
- End Racist Sexism At US Universities Now
- "some are saying that's why there is so many videos on youtube so the whole world can see nibiru..."
- "Thanks Zee, and good point about trolls. Including people who like scaring other people just because..."
- "Potentially you could have a test tube sort of structure almost to the surface where a liquid is..."
- "A single cryptic link to this by John Derbyshire on why educrats cannot handle black affirmative..."
- " I'm gonna call you out on a source for that. I haven't heard anything about this. I've read nonsense..."
- Reduced blood flow seen in brain after clinical recovery of acute concussion
- MRI reveals weight loss protects knees
- Imaging identifies cartilage regeneration in long-distance runners
- Medicaid expansion improves breast cancer screening for low-income women
- Parental absence affects brain development in children