© O. Dutour Excavations of mass graves in Vilnius, Lithuania.
© O. Dutour
Excavations of mass graves in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Despite not losing a major battle and successfully occupying
The team then went on to analyze the human remains. In particular, they used a technique developed in 1999 by Raoult and his team: analysis of the DNA in the vascular tissue inside the teeth, known as dental pulp. They found DNA of B. quintana in seven of the 35 bodies examined, confirming that they had indeed been infected. Furthermore, they also found that dental pulp from three of the 35 bodies contained DNA of R. prowazekii, the causative agent of another louse-borne disease: typhus. The Franco-Lithuanian collaboration has thus confirmed the scale of the problem of infectious disease in the retreating Grand Army, with almost one third of the bodies being infected with louse-borne disease. The technique developed by Raoult promises to be a powerful tool for studying the history of infectious pathology.
1. Raoult D, et al., “Evidence for louse-transmitted diseases in soldiers of Napoleon's Grand Army in Vilnius,” J Infect Dis. 193 (1): 112-20. 2006.
Unité des Rickettsies et pathogènes émergents, Marseille.