Ancient DNA and Lipid Biomarkers: the identification of M. tuberculosis in ancient remains using aDNA and mycolic acids

  • David Green

Student thesis: Unknown


Tuberculosis has killed unnumbered people through the course of history and is, despite huge advances in antibiotic treatments and sanitation, a leading cause of death in the modern world. Paleopathology has made great progress in elucidating the history of tuberculosis and tracing its migration and evolution throughout human history. However, many challenges still exist in the field of paleopathology, and improvements to techniques are still necessary. Ancient DNA has been an invaluable tool in the study of ancient tuberculosis. The insertion element IS6110 has been extensively studied and well established as a reliable biomarker for tuberculosis in ancient skeletons. However, the amplification of ancient DNA can still be sporadic and it is important to continue to assess extraction techniques and improve PCR reliability. In the present study, a number of samples from a collection held at the University of Manchester were screened for tuberculosis by two common extraction methods and standard PCR in the hope of confirming previous investigations. Another biomarker for tuberculosis, the long chain mycolic acids, which are thought to be unique to members of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex, were studied in an attempt to bring more weight to these diagnoses. A novel solid phase extraction method was developed and tested on standard materials in addition to ancient skeletal remains. A number of cases of tuberculosis were confirmed through DNA studies and the two extraction protocols were compared. The new lipidomic approach was shown to be a reliable tool in standard materials, but failed to perform when applied to ancient materials. More work is therefore required to further optimise this method and establish whether it is a viable alternative to current methods.
Date of Award1 Aug 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorTerence Brown (Supervisor) & Michael Buckley (Supervisor)

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