Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Abandoned Bones Suggest TB Wiped Out Leprosy In Battle Of Killer Diseases

Date:
February 19, 2005
Source:
University College London
Summary:
The spread of tuberculosis may have killed off leprosy in Europe in the Middle Ages, according to research published in the latest issue of the Royal Society Proceedings B.

The spread of tuberculosis may have killed off leprosy in Europe in the Middle Ages, according to research published in the latest issue of the Royal Society Proceedings B.

Related Articles


A collaborative study led by University College London (UCL) scientists, following the discovery of a shrouded body in a sealed chamber overlooked by tomb robbers, found evidence of both diseases in a range of archaeological remains dating from the 1st to the 15th centuries.

An initial examination of the body, currently under analysis in Israel, revealed signs of co-infection of TB and leprosy in the bone tissue. The collaborative team, led by Dr Helen Donoghue and Dr Mark Spigelman from UCL's Centre for Infectious Diseases and International Health, went on to identify co-infection in ancient bones around Europe, where the DNA of the bacteria behind both diseases was detected in 42 per cent of the samples examined.

In the Middle Ages leprosy was a widespread, much-feared disease which unaccountably declined around the same time that tuberculosis began to spread across Europe. TB went on to become a major long-term epidemic disease, with one-third of the world's population now infected and more than 8 million new cases in the year 2000 alone.

Researchers now believe that the two trends were no coincidence. In fact, the new findings suggest that TB overtook leprosy as the more aggressive, faster-killing disease.

Dr Mark Spigelman says: "We stumbled across this discovery while examining a shrouded body excavated by Israeli archaeologist Dr Shimon Gibson. The body from around Jerusalem dated from the 1st century AD, when the normal burial practice was to wrap it in a shroud, then return after a suitable time and rebury the bones in an ossuary.

"In this case, the shrouded body had not been re-buried. We thought there must have been a reason for this, so we decided to look for signs of leprosy - a cause of fear and stigma at the time - in addition to the tuberculosis which we had already found to be present.

Dr Helen Donoghue says: "After finding both diseases in the body, we re-examined other samples from sites around ancient and mediaeval Europe and realized that we were looking at a fairly common, previously unrecognised phenomenon of co-infection.

"Scientists have previously speculated over whether cross-immunity might have protected tuberculosis patients from leprosy. However, our findings suggest a different explanation.

"A weakening of the immune system following infection by leprosy, coupled with the stress, poverty and malnutrition associated with the social isolation and stigma of living with the disease, could have paved the way for opportunistic co-infection by TB which brought a speedier death. In time this would reduce the number of individuals suffering from leprosy, leading to its overall decline."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University College London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University College London. "Abandoned Bones Suggest TB Wiped Out Leprosy In Battle Of Killer Diseases." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 February 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050212184622.htm>.
University College London. (2005, February 19). Abandoned Bones Suggest TB Wiped Out Leprosy In Battle Of Killer Diseases. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050212184622.htm
University College London. "Abandoned Bones Suggest TB Wiped Out Leprosy In Battle Of Killer Diseases." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050212184622.htm (accessed December 19, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, December 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) It's hard to resist those delicious but fattening carbs we all crave during the winter months, but there are some ways to stay satisfied without consuming the extra calories. Vanessa Freeman (@VanessaFreeTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) More than 100 motorcyclists hit the road to spread awareness messages about Ebola. Nearly 7,000 people have now died from the virus, almost all of them in west Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Kids Die While Under Protective Services

Kids Die While Under Protective Services

AP (Dec. 18, 2014) As part of a six-month investigation of child maltreatment deaths, the AP found that hundreds of deaths from horrific abuse and neglect could have been prevented. AP's Haven Daley reports. (Dec. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins