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The Cause of Death of a Child in the 18th Century Solved by Bone Microbiome Typing Using Laser Microdissection and Next Generation Sequencing

CEINGE-Biotecnologie Avanzate, via G. Salvatore 486, 80145 Naples, Italy
Department of Molecular Medicine and Medical Biotechnologies, University of Naples Federico II, via Pansini 5, 80131 Naples, Italy
Laboratory of Archeo-Anthropology, University of Naples Suor Orsola Benincasa, via Suor Orsola 10, 80125 Naples, Italy
Department of Public Health, University of Naples Federico II, Naples, via Pansini 5, 80131 Naples, Italy
Microbiology Unit, Hospital of Cosenza, via San Martino, 87100 Cosenza, Italy
Department of Advanced Biomedical Sciences, University of Naples Federico II, via Pansini 5, 80131 Naples, Italy
IRCCS (Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico)-Fondazione SDN, via Gianturco 113, 80143 Naples, Italy
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Present address: Life Sciences Lab, University of Florida, Kennedy Space Center, Merritt Island, FL 32953, USA.
Academic Editor: William Chi-shing Cho
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2017, 18(1), 109;
Received: 28 October 2016 / Revised: 29 December 2016 / Accepted: 3 January 2017 / Published: 6 January 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Next-Generation Sequencing for Clinical Application)
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The history of medicine abounds in cases of mysterious deaths, especially by infectious diseases, which were probably unresolved because of the lack of knowledge and of appropriate technology. The aim of this study was to exploit contemporary technologies to try to identify the cause of death of a young boy who died from a putative “infection” at the end of the 18th century, and for whom an extraordinarily well-preserved minute bone fragment was available. After confirming the nature of the sample, we used laser microdissection to select the most “informative” area to be examined. Tissue genotyping indicated male gender, thereby confirming the notary’s report. 16S ribosomal RNA sequencing showed that Proteobacteria and Actinobacteria were more abundant than Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes, and that Pseudomonas was the most abundant bacterial genus in the Pseudomonadaceae family. These data suggest that the patient most likely died from Pseudomonas osteomyelitis. This case is an example of how new technological approaches, like laser microdissection and next-generation sequencing, can resolve ancient cases of uncertain etiopathology. Lastly, medical samples may contain a wealth of information that may not be accessible until more sophisticated technology becomes available. Therefore, one may envisage the possibility of systematically storing medical samples for evaluation by future generations. View Full-Text
Keywords: metagenomics; human microbiome; cold case; next generation sequencing metagenomics; human microbiome; cold case; next generation sequencing

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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D’Argenio, V.; Torino, M.; Precone, V.; Casaburi, G.; Esposito, M.V.; Iaffaldano, L.; Malapelle, U.; Troncone, G.; Coto, I.; Cavalcanti, P.; De Rosa, G.; Salvatore, F.; Sacchetti, L. The Cause of Death of a Child in the 18th Century Solved by Bone Microbiome Typing Using Laser Microdissection and Next Generation Sequencing. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2017, 18, 109.

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