Medieval Italian died of brucellosis, say scientists

DNA testing has revealed that a man, whose skeleton was found in the ruins of a Medieval Italian village, died of an infection called brucellosis usually acquired by ingesting unpasteurized dairy products. The report, by Warwick Medical School's Professor Mark Pallen and his colleagues, was published in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

The project used "a technique called shotgun metagenomics to sequence DNA from a calcified nodule from the pelvic region of a middle-aged male skeleton excavated from the settlement of Geridu in Sardinia, abandoned in the 14th century. "Normally when you think of calcified material in human or animal remains you think about tuberculosis, because that's the most common infection that leads to calcification," says Professor Pallen, PhD. "We were a bit surprised to get Brucella instead."