Sunday, April 15, 2012

Leprosy in an Imperial Roman Child

There's an interesting article that's just been accepted for publication in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology on possible leprosy in a 4- to 5-year-old child from the Imperial-era Roman suburbium.  It's by Mauro Rubini and Paola Zaio (who previously published evidence of a leper warrior from Italy), Mark Spigelman and Helen Donoghue (who have published on aDNA evidence of leprosy), and Yilmaz Erdal (who seems to have provided the sample from Turkey) — "Palaeopathological and molecular study on two cases of ancient childhood leprosy from the Roman and Byzantine Empires."

The gist of the article is that evidence of leprosy in children is quite rare in the palaeopathological literature, possibly because the characteristic bony changes seen in the disease - rhinomaxillary syndrome or facies leprosa - are more often identified as pathological in adults, whose skulls have fully formed.  So the authors are presenting information on two subadults with bone changes to the skull - one from Imperial-period Italy and one from Byzantine-era (8th-9th century AD) Turkey.