Beyond the breath: Exploring sex differences in tuberculosis outside the lungs

tubercbrainAbout six miles off the coast of Haifa, a dozen meters deep in the Mediterranean Sea at the site of a submerged prehistoric village called Atlit Yam, researchers in 2008 reported finding the ancient remains of a woman and a one-year-old baby embedded in ocean mud1. The skeletons dated back 9,000 years, and both had bone lesions that, along with molecular analysis, revealed infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes tuberculosis.


This Neolithic mother and child are thought to be the oldest human specimens in which a tuberculosis infection has been confirmed by detecting the genetic material of the ancient pathogen.Their skeletons also point to some age-old unknowns about the disease, which researchers are beginning to explore. Tuberculosis is widely considered to be an illness of the lungs, not of the bones or other organs. But occasionally, the disease-causing bacterium enters the bloodstream and, essentially, becomes nomadic within the body.

[Read the story at Nature Medicine (paywall) or download PDF] // April 7, 2017]