An Italian cemetery could hold the key to the evolution of cholera

An Italian cemetery could hold the key to the evolution of cholera

For more than 1,000 years, what is now the area near the Badía Pozzeveri abbey, in the heart of Italian Tuscany, was used as a local cemetery and for many generations this cemetery hosted many people who died from plague epidemics.

Nowadays, this necropolis is no longer a place where oblivion reigns but is a great treasure for researchers because thanks to the remains that lie there we want to carry out a deep study to find out what the health of Europe has been and in this way find answers to some diseases that today continue to kill thousands of people.

Clark Larsen, professor of Anthropology at Ohio University, one of the excavation coordinators, stated that there are remains that have an excellent level of conservation, something that It has allowed them to do analyzes on different diseases such as tuberculosis, osteoarthritis, oral and bone infections and one of the most obsessed by Larsen, the study of cholera.

This disease ravaged Europe in the mid-19th century and caused thousands of deaths, especially in Tuscany. The people who lived near Badia Pozzeveri buried their deceased and covered them with quicklime with the intention of stopping the outbreak, which made the bodies preserved in excellent quality. Larsen stated that: “As far as we know, they are some of the best preserved remains of cholera victims from this period.”.

During the four years that he has been excavating the entire area and after having recovered around 30 skeletons, different genetic traces of various microorganisms have been found that are associated with diseases, something that leads the team to be optimistic and to trust that the DNA of VIbrio Choleroe, the pathogen causing cholera.

Larsen said that if he found this genetic mark, it would be very useful to know how the bacteria has evolved. According to estimates from the WHO, the World Health Organization, each year there are between 3 and 5 million cases of cholera, where between 100,000 and 120,000 of those affected die.

In addition to cholera, there are more diseases that interest researchers, such as the black plague, which wiped out tens of thousands of people between 1346 and 1353 in Europe. If we continue to deepen these investigations, there will undoubtedly be a lot of information about these diseases, especially cholera, and who knows ... maybe a way will be found to neutralize it.

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Video: Vibrio cholerae Cholera