The new field of paleomicrobiology allows past outbreaks to be identified by testing dental pulp of human remains with PCR.
We identified a mass grave in Douai, France dating from the early XVIII th century. This city was besieged during the European war of Spanish succession. We tested dental pulp from 1192 teeth (including 40 from Douai) by quantitative PCR (qPCR) for R. prowazekii and B. quintana. We also used ultra-sensitive suicide PCR to detect R. prowazekii and genotyped positive samples.
In the Douai remains, we identified one case of B. quintana infection (by qPCR) and R. prowazekii (by suicide PCR) in 6/21 individuals (29%). The R. prowazekii was genotype B, a genotype previously found in a Spanish isolate obtained in the first part of the XX th century.