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PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e36371. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0036371. Epub 2012 May 2.

Neonate human remains: a window of opportunity to the molecular study of ancient syphilis.

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Laboratorio Nacional de Genómica para la Biodiversidad, Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados del Instituto Politécnico Nacional (CINVESTAV-IPN), Irapuato, Guanajuato, Mexico.


Ancient DNA (aDNA) analysis can be a useful tool in bacterial disease diagnosis in human remains. However, while the recovery of Mycobacterium spp. has been widely successful, several authors report unsuccessful results regarding ancient treponemal DNA, casting doubts on the usefulness of this technique for the diagnosis of ancient syphilis. Here, we present results from an analysis of four newborn specimens recovered from the crypt of "La Ermita de la Soledad" (XVI-XVII centuries), located in the province of Huelva in the southwest of Spain. We extracted and analyzed aDNA in three independent laboratories, following specific procedures generally practiced in the aDNA field, including cloning of the amplified DNA fragments and sequencing of several clones. This is the most ancient case, reported to date, from which detection of DNA from T. pallidum subspecies pallidum has been successful in more than one individual, and we put forward a hypothesis to explain this result, taking into account the course of the disease in neonate individuals.

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