Publications by authors named "Beatrix Welte"

4 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

2000-year-old pathogen genomes reconstructed from metagenomic analysis of Egyptian mummified individuals.

BMC Biol 2020 08 28;18(1):108. Epub 2020 Aug 28.

Institute of Evolutionary Medicine, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, 8057, Zurich, Switzerland.

Background: Recent advances in sequencing have facilitated large-scale analyses of the metagenomic composition of different samples, including the environmental microbiome of air, water, and soil, as well as the microbiome of living humans and other animals. Analyses of the microbiome of ancient human samples may provide insights into human health and disease, as well as pathogen evolution, but the field is still in its very early stages and considered highly challenging.

Results: The metagenomic and pathogen content of Egyptian mummified individuals from different time periods was investigated via genetic analysis of the microbial composition of various tissues. The analysis of the dental calculus' microbiome identified Red Complex bacteria, which are correlated with periodontal diseases. From bone and soft tissue, genomes of two ancient pathogens, a 2200-year-old Mycobacterium leprae strain and a 2000-year-old human hepatitis B virus, were successfully reconstructed.

Conclusions: The results show the reliability of metagenomic studies on Egyptian mummified individuals and the potential to use them as a source for the extraction of ancient pathogen DNA.
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August 2020

Ancient Egyptian mummy genomes suggest an increase of Sub-Saharan African ancestry in post-Roman periods.

Nat Commun 2017 05 30;8:15694. Epub 2017 May 30.

Institute for Archaeological Sciences, University of Tübingen, 72070 Tübingen, Germany.

Egypt, located on the isthmus of Africa, is an ideal region to study historical population dynamics due to its geographic location and documented interactions with ancient civilizations in Africa, Asia and Europe. Particularly, in the first millennium BCE Egypt endured foreign domination leading to growing numbers of foreigners living within its borders possibly contributing genetically to the local population. Here we present 90 mitochondrial genomes as well as genome-wide data sets from three individuals obtained from Egyptian mummies. The samples recovered from Middle Egypt span around 1,300 years of ancient Egyptian history from the New Kingdom to the Roman Period. Our analyses reveal that ancient Egyptians shared more ancestry with Near Easterners than present-day Egyptians, who received additional sub-Saharan admixture in more recent times. This analysis establishes ancient Egyptian mummies as a genetic source to study ancient human history and offers the perspective of deciphering Egypt's past at a genome-wide level.
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May 2017

Molecular identification of falciparum malaria and human tuberculosis co-infections in mummies from the Fayum depression (Lower Egypt).

PLoS One 2013 2;8(4):e60307. Epub 2013 Apr 2.

Institute of Tropical Medicine, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.

Due to the presence of the lake Quarun and to the particular nature of its irrigation system, it has been speculated that the Fayum, a large depression 80 kilometers south-west of modern Cairo, was exposed to the hazards of malaria in historic times. Similarly, it has been speculated that, in the same area, also human tuberculosis might have been far more widespread in the antiquity than in its recent past. If these hypotheses were confirmed, it would imply that frequent cases of co-infection between the two pathogens might have occurred in ancient populations. To substantiate those speculations, molecular analyses were carried out on sixteen mummified heads recovered from the necropolis of Abusir el Meleq (Fayum) dating from the 3(rd) Intermediate Period (1064-656 BC) to the Roman Period (30 BC-300 AD). Soft tissue biopsies were used for DNA extractions and PCR amplifications using well-suited protocols. A partial 196-bp fragment of Plasmodium falciparum apical membrane antigen 1 gene and a 123-bp fragment of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex insertion sequence IS6110 were amplified and sequenced in six and five of the sixteen specimens, respectively. A 100% concordance rates between our sequences and those of P. falciparum and M. tuberculosis complex ones were obtained. Lastly, concomitant PCR amplification of P. falciparum and M. tuberculosis complex DNA specific fragments was obtained in four mummies, three of which are (14)C dated to the Late and Graeco-Roman Periods. Our data confirm that the hydrography of Fayum was extremely conducive to the spread of malaria. They also support the notion that the agricultural boom and dense crowding occurred in this region, especially under the Ptolemies, highly increased the probability for the manifestation and spread of tuberculosis. Here we extend back-wards to ca. 800 BC new evidence for malaria tropica and human tuberculosis co-occurrence in ancient Lower Egypt.
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October 2013

Enlightening the past: analytical proof for the use of Pistacia exudates in ancient Egyptian embalming resins.

J Sep Sci 2011 Dec 14;34(23):3364-71. Epub 2011 Nov 14.

Institute of Organic Chemistry, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.

Mastic, the resinous exudate of the evergreen shrub Pistacia lentiscus, is frequently discussed as one of the ingredients used for embalming in ancient Egypt. We show the identification of mastic in ancient Egyptian embalming resins by an unambiguous assignment of the mastic triterpenoid fingerprint consisting of moronic acid, oleanonic acid, isomasticadienonic and masticadienonic acid through the consolidation of NMR and GC/MS analysis. Differences in the observed triterpenoid fingerprints between mummy specimens suggest that more than one plant species served as the triterpenoid resin source. Analysis of the triterpenoid acids of ancient embalming resin samples in the form of their methyl- and trimethylsilyl esters is compared. In addition we show a simple way to differentiate between residues of mastic from its use as incense during embalming or from direct mastic application in the embalming resin.
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December 2011