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Paleopathological and molecular evidence of tuberculosis in human skeletal remains from 18th-19th century Orthodox cemeteries in Irkutsk, Eastern Siberia

I Mokrousov(1) N Kharlamova(2) I Berdnikov(3) N Berdnikova(3) R Galeev(2) O Ogarkov(4)

1:St. Petersburg Pasteur Institute, St. Petersburg, Russia; 2:N.N. Mikloukho-Maklay Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia; 3:Scientific Research Center Baikal Region, Irkutsk State University, Russia; 4:Scientific Centre of the Family Health and Human Reproduction Problems, Irkutsk, Russia

The city of Irkutsk in Eastern Siberia was founded in the 17th century by settlers from Russia. Compared to the large cities of European Russia, its population was small (from 1,000 to 10,000 during 18th century), but the overcrowding-related conditions favorable for the spread of transmissible pathogens were still present. Here, we tested the skeletal human remains from the 18th-19th centuries’ Orthodox cemeteries of the Spasskaya and Krestovozdvizhenskaya Churches in Irkutsk for tuberculosis-associated bone alterations and Mycobacterium tuberculosis DNA. The morphologically examined skeletal collection included 591 individuals of Caucasian origin. Among infectious lesions, those characteristic of osteomyelitis, syphilis, and tuberculosis were found. The molecular analysis (PCR, real-time PCR of IS6110 and other markers, and spoligotyping) concordantly suggested that at least four individuals (out of 15 TB-suspected, DNA-tested) were positive for the presence of M. tuberculosis DNA. They were all males (3 maturus and 1 maturus senilis age) dated between the 1730s and 1810s. The combined molecular analysis suggested a presence of different strains. At least some of them appear to represent not the currently predominant in Siberia the Beijing genotype (M. tuberculosis East-Asian lineage) but strains of the European descent. In conclusion, this study presented bioarchaeological and molecular evidence of tuberculosis in human skeletal remains from 18th-19th centuries Orthodox cemeteries in Irkutsk, Siberia. The samples are not M. bovis and represent human M. tuberculosis sensu stricto. Their precise phylogenetic identity is elusive but cautiously evokes the European/Russian ancestry of at least some isolates.

Funding: Russian Science Foundation (grant 19-14-00013).

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