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01.04.2015 | main topic | Ausgabe 7-8/2015

Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift 7-8/2015

First genetic evidence of leprosy in early medieval Austria

Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift > Ausgabe 7-8/2015
PhD Mag. Dr. rer. nat. Christian Gausterer, PhD Christina Stein, Univ.-Prof. Dr. phil. Maria Teschler-Nicola
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi: 10.​1007/​s10354-014-0287-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.


Leprosy used to be a widespread, dreaded disease in Europe during the middle ages, and it still remains an important health problem in some parts of the world today. Herein, we present data on the earliest ‘Austrian’ (an adult female from the early medieval period) proven to have suffered from leprosy. Manifestations of the disease were first identified during a systematic screening of pathological changes in skeletons recovered from an archaeological site in Pottenbrunn (Lower Austria). In the present study, DNA extracts from selected cranial and postcranial bone samples were investigated using polymerase chain reaction primers specific to the Mycobacterium leprae (M. leprae) repetitive element (RLEP). M. leprae traces were detected in extracts from nasal and palatine bones. Sequence analysis of informative polymorphic sites supports previous reports indicating that European M. leprae strains fall into single nucleotide polymorphism group 3. In summary, these findings put Austria on the map of confirmed leprosy cases in ancient Europe.

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