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      Leprosy at the edge of Europe—Biomolecular, isotopic and osteoarchaeological findings from medieval Ireland

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          Abstract

          Relatively little is known of leprosy in Medieval Ireland; as an island located at the far west of Europe it has the potential to provide interesting insights in relation to the historical epidemiology of the disease. To this end the study focuses on five cases of probable leprosy identified in human skeletal remains excavated from inhumation burials. Three of the individuals derived from the cemetery of St Michael Le Pole, Golden Lane, Dublin, while single examples were also identified from Ardreigh, Co. Kildare, and St Patrick’s Church, Armoy, Co. Antrim. The individuals were radiocarbon dated and examined biomolecularly for evidence of either of the causative pathogens, M. leprae or M. lepromatosis. Oxygen and strontium isotopes were measured in tooth enamel and rib samples to determine where the individuals had spent their formative years and to ascertain if they had undertaken any recent migrations. We detected M. leprae DNA in the three Golden Lane cases but not in the probable cases from either Ardreigh Co. Kildare or Armoy, Co. Antrim. M. lepromatosis was not detected in any of the burals. DNA preservation was sufficiently robust to allow genotyping of M. leprae strains in two of the Golden Lane burials, SkCXCV (12-13 th century) and SkCCXXX (11-13 th century). These strains were found to belong on different lineages of the M. leprae phylogenetic tree, namely branches 3 and 2 respectively. Whole genome sequencing was also attempted on these two isolates with a view to gaining further information but poor genome coverage precluded phylogenetic analysis. Data from the biomolecular study was combined with osteological, isotopic and radiocarbon dating to provide a comprehensive and multidisciplinary study of the Irish cases. Strontium and oxygen isotopic analysis indicate that two of the individuals from Golden Lane (SkCXLVIII (10-11 th century) and SkCXCV) were of Scandinavian origin, while SkCCXXX may have spent his childhood in the north of Ireland or central Britain. We propose that the Vikings were responsible for introducing leprosy to Ireland. This work adds to our knowledge of the likely origins of leprosy in Medieval Ireland and will hopefully stimulate further research into the history and spread of this ancient disease across the world.

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          Most cited references 22

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: ConceptualizationRole: Data curationRole: Formal analysisRole: Funding acquisitionRole: InvestigationRole: MethodologyRole: Project administrationRole: ResourcesRole: SoftwareRole: SupervisionRole: ValidationRole: VisualizationRole: Writing – original draftRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: ConceptualizationRole: Data curationRole: Formal analysisRole: Funding acquisitionRole: InvestigationRole: MethodologyRole: Project administrationRole: ResourcesRole: Writing – original draftRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: ConceptualizationRole: InvestigationRole: Methodology
                Role: Data curationRole: Formal analysisRole: InvestigationRole: MethodologyRole: ResourcesRole: ValidationRole: VisualizationRole: Writing – original draft
                Role: Formal analysisRole: InvestigationRole: Methodology
                Role: InvestigationRole: Methodology
                Role: Formal analysisRole: InvestigationRole: MethodologyRole: Writing – original draft
                Role: Formal analysisRole: InvestigationRole: MethodologyRole: Writing – original draft
                Role: InvestigationRole: ResourcesRole: Writing – original draft
                Role: Formal analysisRole: InvestigationRole: MethodologyRole: ResourcesRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: ConceptualizationRole: Writing – original draft
                Role: Editor
                Journal
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                plos
                plosone
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, CA USA )
                1932-6203
                26 December 2018
                2018
                : 13
                : 12
                Affiliations
                [1 ] Department of Microbial Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford, United Kingdom
                [2 ] Archaeology and Palaeoecology, School of Natural and Built Environment, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland
                [3 ] Department of Archaeology, University of Southampton, Highfield Road, Southampton, United Kingdom
                [4 ] Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford, United Kingdom
                [5 ] Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Norwich, England, United Kingdom
                [6 ] Edmond O’Donovan & Associates, Archaeological Consultant, Bray, Co. Wicklow, Republic of Ireland
                [7 ] Rubicon Heritage Services Ltd, Unit 2, Europa Enterprise Park, Midleton, Co. Cork, Republic of Ireland
                University of Florence, ITALY
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Article
                PONE-D-18-22827
                10.1371/journal.pone.0209495
                6306209
                30586394
                © 2018 Taylor et al

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Page count
                Figures: 6, Tables: 11, Pages: 27
                Product
                Funding
                Funded by: British Academy
                Award ID: SG 150114
                Award Recipient :
                This research was supported by the British Academy (SG 150114, GMT, EMM, GRS); https://www.britac.ac.uk/. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Categories
                Research Article
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Molecular Biology
                Molecular Biology Techniques
                Artificial Gene Amplification and Extension
                Polymerase Chain Reaction
                Research and Analysis Methods
                Molecular Biology Techniques
                Artificial Gene Amplification and Extension
                Polymerase Chain Reaction
                Medicine and Health Sciences
                Infectious Diseases
                Bacterial Diseases
                Leprosy
                Medicine and Health Sciences
                Tropical Diseases
                Neglected Tropical Diseases
                Leprosy
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Organisms
                Bacteria
                Actinobacteria
                Mycobacterium Leprae
                Social Sciences
                Archaeology
                Archaeological Dating
                Radioactive Carbon Dating
                Research and Analysis Methods
                Chemical Characterization
                Isotope Analysis
                Radioactive Carbon Dating
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Anatomy
                Osteology
                Medicine and Health Sciences
                Anatomy
                Osteology
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Genetics
                Molecular Genetics
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Molecular Biology
                Molecular Genetics
                Physical Sciences
                Chemistry
                Chemical Elements
                Strontium
                Biology and life sciences
                Genetics
                DNA
                Forms of DNA
                Mitochondrial DNA
                Biology and life sciences
                Biochemistry
                Nucleic acids
                DNA
                Forms of DNA
                Mitochondrial DNA
                Custom metadata
                All relevant data are within the manuscript and its Supporting Information files.

                Uncategorized

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