New! Sign up for our free email newsletter.
Science News
from research organizations

One of the oldest cases of tuberculosis discovered

October 30, 2013
Public Library of Science
Scientists verify the presence of tuberculosis from 7,000 years ago.

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 archaeological record, 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 tuberculosis 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."

Story Source:

Materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Muriel Masson, Erika Molnár, Helen D. Donoghue, Gurdyal S. Besra, David E. Minnikin, Houdini H. T. Wu, Oona Y-C. Lee, Ian D. Bull, György Pálfi. Osteological and Biomolecular Evidence of a 7000-Year-Old Case of Hypertrophic Pulmonary Osteopathy Secondary to Tuberculosis from Neolithic Hungary. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (10): e78252 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0078252

Cite This Page:

Public Library of Science. "One of the oldest cases of tuberculosis discovered." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 October 2013. <>.
Public Library of Science. (2013, October 30). One of the oldest cases of tuberculosis discovered. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 24, 2024 from
Public Library of Science. "One of the oldest cases of tuberculosis discovered." ScienceDaily. (accessed June 24, 2024).

Explore More

from ScienceDaily