Late Lunch Talk: Identifying Human Pathogens from Human Dental Calculus in the Smithsonian Institution’s Natural History

Late Lunch Talk by Rita Austin


This talk will be available on Zoom.
The zoom link will be shared through the CEES seminar mailing list.
Contact if you would like to be forwarded the invitation e-mail.


Afflicting human populations for millennia, venereal syphilis and tuberculosis (TB) are two of the most dreaded human diseases. Caused by Treponema pallidum and Mycobacterium tuberculosis, respectively, both diseases are skeletally assessable in ancient human remains. However, skeletal presentation of disease is dependent upon chronic and/or severe disease progression, limiting archaeological disease estimates to late-stage and fatal cases.
 Ancient genomic methodologies, including shotgun metagenomics and hybridization capture techniques, have been developed to genetically characterize pathogens from ancient human remains. Dental calculus, or calcified plaque, is an accessible biofilm from skeletal remains containing health informative biomolecules, potentially recording venereal syphilis and/or TB causes of death.
Here, I will talk about one of my dissertation chapters which sought to assess the potential of ancient dental calculus to be a diagnostically informative substrate.

Published Feb. 10, 2021 3:16 PM - Last modified Mar. 8, 2021 2:19 PM