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Paleoepidemiology of Infectious Disease in Europe

In this pilot project in collaboration with Prof. Rick Paine of Utah and Dr. Jesper Boldsen, University of Southern Denmark, graduate student Ellie Fair is screening Medieval burials from two cemeteries in Denmark for evidence of infectious pathogens. Using next-gen genomic approaches, Ellie is attempting to document the presence of infectious pathogens by identifying diagnostic DNA sequences in aDNA extracts from the burials. Initial attention is focused on remains from a cemetery known to have been used by Hansen's Disease victims, and therefore this pathogen will be the first to be screened. Subsequent examinations on additional Medieval material will attempt to document the presence of other infectious diseases (e.g., typhoid, measles, smallpox) known to have been prevalent in the area at the time. If the pilot research proves it to be feasible, a larger project will be pursued in order to conduct a larger prehistoric population screen of Medieval skeletons in the region in order to assess the impact of infectious disease burden on the local population and its possible effect on structuring of the modern European genome.


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Last Updated: 11/28/16