A disease called Hypertrophic Pulmonary Osteopathy (HPO) 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, Muriel Masson and colleagues at the University of Szeged 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.
According to the researcher, 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.
The study is published in journal PLOS ONE.