Thursday, 22 January 2015

First article published in new OA journal: Is IS6110 really a good marker for TB in ancient remains?

The insertion sequence IS6110 is frequently used as a marker for the presence of ancient DNA from bacteria of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex in human archaeological remains. The specificity of polymerase chain reactions directed at IS6110 has, however, been questioned, because identical or similar elements have been identified in ‘mycobacteria other than tuberculosis’.

These are
Mycobacterium species, common in the environment, that may occasionally cause opportunistic disease, but which are not normally associated with clinical cases of tuberculosis.

In the first article published in STAR: Science and Technology of Archaeological Research, Muller et al report the presence of two sequence types similar but not identical to IS6110 in bone samples from nine skeletons dated mainly to the Roman period, one from Scotland and the others from the remainder of Britain. The source of these sequences cannot be established but they most likely derived from environmental bacteria that colonised the skeletons after death. Our data support the notion that IS6110 may not be unique to the members of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex and is therefore not suitable as a specific marker for the identification of tuberculosis in human remains.

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