Thesis abstract ‘Ring-a-Ring-a-Rosy: Can DNA Analysis Identify the Presence of the Plague Bacillus in Archaeological Remains?’

13th November 2013

Anthony McKeough

BA(Hons), School of Social Sciences, University of Queensland, St Lucia, 2001

Plague bacillus (Yersinia pestis) is one of the most frequently documented diseases in modern history and has resulted in many suspected plague burials. However, the current lack of adequate methods in paleopathology prevents the cause of death being ascertained in plague victims, as Y. pestis leaves no visible manifestations on bone. Given the lack of methodology in identifying ancient plague (and ancient diseases as a whole), this thesis aimed to test the feasibility of DNA analysis in detecting plague in archaeological bone samples. The analysis utilised PCR in an attempt to detect Y. pestis (the causative agent of the plague) in six bone samples from a suspected plague burial in London, dating to 1348 during the Black Death epidemic. PCR allowed the identification of Y. pestis bacteria in one of the six bone samples, thus demonstrating this technique’s viability in plague detection. Furthermore, this detection method can potentially be applied to virtually all blood-borne disease in archaeological and forensic samples.

McKeough, A.
Thesis abstract 'Ring-a-Ring-a-Rosy: Can DNA Analysis Identify the Presence of the Plague Bacillus in Archaeological Remains?'
2002
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