Integrated Strategies for the use of Lipid Biomarkers in the Diagnosis of Ancient Mycobacterial Disease

Oona Y-C. Lee, Ian D Bull, E Molnar, A Marcsik, G Palfi, Helen D. Donoghue, Gurdyal S. Besra, David E. Minnikin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)


The use of ancient DNA and lipid biomarkers has become established for the detection of tuberculosis and leprosy in archaeological material. Long-chain compounds are released by an efficient non-aqueous alkaline extraction and acidic components are converted to stable pentafluorobenzyl (PFB) esters, which can be preserved for immediate or future analysis. These long-chain components are fractionated into nonhydroxylated fatty acid esters and mycolic acid esters. Characteristic profiles of mycolates are recorded by fluorescence high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) of pyrenebutyric acid derivatives of PFB esters. Mycocerosate PFB esters are analysed by negative-ion chemical-ionisation gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (NICI-GCMS). In this study, ancient DNA analyses, along with mycolate and mycocerosate profiles, for a representative late 7th century AD skeleton from the Avar period in Hungary, are presented. It will be shown how mycolate and mycocerosate analyses of residual material from an ancient DNA analysis can be used to confirm a mixed leprosy-tuberculosis infection and provide an estimate of the relative amounts of the M. tuberculosis and M. leprae bacterial load obtained. In the present case, the bone pathology indicated only leprosy, but the biomarker analysis suggested predominance of tuberculosis over leprosy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Twelfth Annual Conference of the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology
Subtitle of host publicationDepartment of Archaeology and Anthropology University of Cambridge 2010
EditorsPiers D. Mitchell, Jo Buckberry
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Publication series

NameBritish Archaeological Reports International Series
PublisherBAR Publishing
ISSN (Print)0143-3067


  • Tuberculosis
  • Paleopathology
  • Skeletons
  • Lipids
  • Biomarkers
  • Leprosy

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