Cholera epidemics afflicted the entire globe and reaped millions of lives throughout the 19th century. While mostly unseen in industrialized countries, the “blue death” is still one of the most common infectious diseases in the developing world. The disease, caused by small intestine infections by Vibrio cholerae, is characterized by vomiting, diarrhea, and consequent dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Unless promptly treated, cholera results in death in just a few days. Genetic analyses of V. cholerae have identified two strains – Classical and El Tor – which differ in their genetic makeup and consequent virulence. In spite of the abundant historical information surrounding cholera and its death toll, until recently no direct examination of ancient cholera epidemics had been attempted. This study presents the preliminary results of archaeological, bioarchaeological, and molecular investigations of burials attributed to the cholera epidemics of 1855 at Badia Pozzeveri, Italy. All skeletons were covered by a thick layer of lime, were lying in unusual positions, and lacked evidence of the conventional ritual practices observed at the time (removal of personal belongings, crossing of hands of the thorax, presence of votive artifacts). A preliminary bioarchaeological analysis indicated the presence of individuals of both sexes and ages ranging from the early 20s to over 60. During excavation, sediment samples were collected from the pelvic area of all skeletons to be submitted to molecular analyses aimed at detecting the presence of V. cholerae in association with the skeletal remains and investigating the relationship between humans and pathogens in the past.

Investigating the "Blue Death" in the Past Preliminary Results of Multidisciplinary Research on the 1855 Cholera Cemetery at Badia Pozzeveri, Italy

Fornaciari A.;Coschino F.;Fornaciari G.;
2013

Abstract

Cholera epidemics afflicted the entire globe and reaped millions of lives throughout the 19th century. While mostly unseen in industrialized countries, the “blue death” is still one of the most common infectious diseases in the developing world. The disease, caused by small intestine infections by Vibrio cholerae, is characterized by vomiting, diarrhea, and consequent dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Unless promptly treated, cholera results in death in just a few days. Genetic analyses of V. cholerae have identified two strains – Classical and El Tor – which differ in their genetic makeup and consequent virulence. In spite of the abundant historical information surrounding cholera and its death toll, until recently no direct examination of ancient cholera epidemics had been attempted. This study presents the preliminary results of archaeological, bioarchaeological, and molecular investigations of burials attributed to the cholera epidemics of 1855 at Badia Pozzeveri, Italy. All skeletons were covered by a thick layer of lime, were lying in unusual positions, and lacked evidence of the conventional ritual practices observed at the time (removal of personal belongings, crossing of hands of the thorax, presence of votive artifacts). A preliminary bioarchaeological analysis indicated the presence of individuals of both sexes and ages ranging from the early 20s to over 60. During excavation, sediment samples were collected from the pelvic area of all skeletons to be submitted to molecular analyses aimed at detecting the presence of V. cholerae in association with the skeletal remains and investigating the relationship between humans and pathogens in the past.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11568/937225
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