Researchers in Germany have discovered that two 3,500 year old adult mummies had suffered from malaria, one of the most common infectious diseases in the world. Bone tissues samples were studied in over 90 mummies found in the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes, which today is called Luxor. The two adult mummies were found in separate tombs, yet both had tissues containing the DNA of a parasite that causes malaria.That's not all! A team of researchers at The University Collage in London discovered a pair of 9,000 year old skeletons of a woman and a baby off the coast of Israel who both were infected with the oldest known case of tuberculosis.
By studying ancient diseases that in time have changed, it could help scientist better understand how modern diseases mutate in reaction to drugs. Millions of people die each year from malaria and tuberculosis has grown resistant to antibiotics, it's important that scientist have all the clues they can to help find a cure for these life threatening, potentially fatal diseases.
Frank Ruhli, the head of the Swiss Mummy Project at the University of Zurich, said "If you go back in the past and see this genetic fingerprint of a disease, from a hundred years ago to ten thousand years, it helps you asses how it might actually react in the future."
Radiology and CT scans have also helped researchers find medical abnormalities in mummies, including arthritis, sclerosis, bone fractures, dental problems, and injuries. Only problem is that these scans provide little evidence of these diseases. As a result, archeologists have you use more invasive procedures such as autopsies. By sampling the tissue to look at DNA is both less damaging to the mummy and more precise when it comes to the studying of these diseases.
Although pathologist have not yet found the information they need to create treatments for these diseases, there is still much to be discovered. The more they can find and sample the closer they get to a cure!