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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Publication details for Professor Charlotte Roberts

Müller, R., Roberts, C.A. & Brown, T.A. (2014). Genotyping of ancient Mycobacterium tuberculosis strains reveals historic genetic diversity. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 281(1781): 20133236.

Author(s) from Durham


The evolutionary history of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC) has previously been studied by analysis of sequence diversity in extant strains, but not addressed by direct examination of strain genotypes in archaeological remains. Here, we use ancient DNA sequencing to type 11 single nucleotide polymorphisms and two large sequence polymorphisms in the MTBC strains present in 10 archaeological samples from skeletons from Britain and Europe dating to the second–nineteenth centuries AD. The results enable us to assign the strains to groupings and lineages recognized in the extant MTBC. We show that at least during the eighteenth–nineteenth centuries AD, strains of M. tuberculosis belonging to different genetic groups were present in Britain at the same time, possibly even at a single location, and we present evidence for a mixed infection in at least one individual. Our study shows that ancient DNA typing applied to multiple samples can provide sufficiently detailed information to contribute to both archaeological and evolutionary knowledge of the history of tuberculosis.