Pre-Columbian tuberculosis in Tierra del Fuego? Discussion of the paleopathological and molecular evidence

Ricardo A. Guichón, Jane Buikstra, Anne Stone, Kelly M. Harkins, Jorge A. Suby, Mauricio Massone, Alfredo Prieto lglesias, Alicia Wilbur, Florence Constantinescu, Conrado Rodríguez Martín

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


This work contributes to ongoing discussions about the nature of tuberculosis in the Western Hemisphere prior to the time of European contact. Our example, from the extreme south of South America was, at the time of our study, without firm temporal association or molecular characterization. In Tierra del Fuego, Constantinescu (1999) briefly described vertebral bone lesions compatible with TB in an undated skeleton from Myren 1 site (Chile). The remains of Myren are estimated to represent a man between 18 and 23 years old at the time of death. The objectives of this research are to extend this description, to present molecular results, to establish a radiocarbon date, and to report stable isotopic values for the remains. We provide further description of the remains, including tuberculosis-like skeletal pathology. Radiocarbon dating of 640. ±. 20 years BP attributes this individual to the precontact fourteenth-fifteenth centuries. Isotopic ratios for nitrogen and carbon from bone collagen suggest a mixed diet. Molecular results were positive for the rpoB quantitative PCR (qPCR) assays but negative for two independent IS6110 and IS1081 qPCR assays. Further testing using genomic methods to target any mycobacteria for specific identification are needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)92-101
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Paleopathology
StatePublished - 2015


  • Ancient DNA
  • Bioarchaeology
  • Tierra del Fuego
  • Tuberculosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Archaeology


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