Mass burial genomics reveals outbreak of enteric paratyphoid fever in the Late Medieval trade city Lübeck

Magdalena Haller, Kimberly Callan, Julian Susat, Anna Lena Flux, Alexander Immel, Andre Franke, Alexander Herbig, Johannes Krause, Anne Kupczok, Gerhard Fouquet, Susanne Hummel, Dirk Rieger, Almut Nebel, Ben Krause-kyora

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Medieval Europe was repeatedly affected by outbreaks of infectious diseases, some of which reached epidemic proportions. A Late Medieval mass burial next to the Heiligen-Geist-Hospital in Lübeck (present-day Germany) contained the skeletal remains of more than 800 individuals who had presumably died from infectious disease. From 92 individuals, we screened the ancient DNA extracts for the presence of pathogens to determine the cause of death. Metagenomic analysis revealed evidence of Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica serovar Paratyphi C, suggesting an outbreak of enteric paratyphoid fever. Three reconstructed S. Paratyphi C genomes showed close similarity to a strain from Norway (1200 CE). Radiocarbon dates placed the disease outbreak in Lübeck between 1270 and 1400 cal CE, with historical records indicating 1367 CE as the most probable year. The deceased were of northern and eastern European descent, confirming Lübeck as an important trading center of the Hanseatic League in the Baltic region.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102419
JournaliScience
Volume24
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 May 2021

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