Could tuberculosis DNA recovered from a 200 year-old mummy provide doctors with new ways to treat the disease? Scientists have recovered tuberculosis DNA from a 200 year-old Hungarian mummy, according to a report by the Mail Online.
University of Warwick researchers have recovered tuberculosis (TB) genomes from the lung tissue of the mummy using a technique known as metagenomics.The strain of TB found in the mummy offered them a rare chance to study the pathogens from a time before antibiotics and the spread of the disease during the industrial revolution. The DNA sample was taken from a lung from a mummified Hungarian woman called Terézia Hausmann, who died aged 28 in December 1797.
British scientists have recovered tuberculosis DNA from the lung tissue of a 200 year-old Hungarian mummy called TeréziaHausmann, (an artist's impression is pictured) using a new technique known as metagenomics. Her mummified remains were recovered from a crypt in the town of Vác, Hungary. Scientists have previously performed molecular analyses of a chest sample taken from the mummy and deduced that her death was the result of TB. They thought it would be possible to find TB DNA extremely well preserved in her body.
However, the team from the university have now used metagenomics to describe the open-ended sequencing of DNA from samples. The discovery could help scientists explore the significance of mixed-strain infections, especially during times of TB outbreaks, which could lead to new ways of treating mixed-strain infections.
The team, which also included scientists from University College London, Vác Museum and Budapest, had the difficult task of identifying TB DNA in a historical specimen. University of Warwick researchers have recovered tuberculosis genomes from the lung tissue of the mummy using a technique known as metagenomics. Combined with research into contemporary TB (pictured), their discovery could help scientists explore the significance of mixed-strain infections. The technique uses cutting-edge genome sequencing approaches and avoids the complicated and unreliable process of using bacteria or amplification of DNA.
The results revealed that the woman was infected with two different trains of TB bacterium. The finding is important for tracking the evolution of microbes and could be key to fighting TB, which killed almost 1.5 million people in 2010, according to the World Health Organisation. 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. '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 similar approach was used by another group of scientists to recover a leprosy genome from historical material, a few weeks ago. The research will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The DNA taken from the mummy, combined with research on contemporary TB, will be used to explore the significance of mixed-strain infections, particularly when tuberculosis is highly prevalent.
Professor Pallen said: '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...[and] revealed that some strain lineages have been circulating in Europe for more than two centuries.'
This is the sister of Terézia Hausmann - Barbara. The mummies were found in the crypt of a Dominican church in the Hungarian town of Vác in 1994 in wooden coffins decorated with paintings of skulls