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Evidence of a Louse-Borne Outbreak Involving Typhus in Douai, 1710-1712 during the War of Spanish Succession

Abstract : Background: The new field of paleomicrobiology allows past outbreaks to be identified by testing dental pulp of human remains with PCR. Methods: We identified a mass grave in Douai, France dating from the early XVIIIth century. This city was besieged during the European war of Spanish succession. We tested dental pulp from 1192 teeth (including 40 from Douai) by quantitative PCR (qPCR) for R. prowazekii and B. quintana. We also used ultra-sensitive suicide PCR to detect R. prowazekii and genotyped positive samples. Results and Discussion In the Douai remains, we identified one case of B. quintana infection (by qPCR) and R. prowazekii (by suicide PCR) in 6/21 individuals (29%). The R. prowazekii was genotype B, a genotype previously found in a Spanish isolate obtained in the first part of the XXth century. Conclusion: Louse-borne outbreaks were raging during the XVIIIth century; our results support the hypothesis that typhus was imported into Europe by Spanish soldiers from America.
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Tung Nguyen-Hieu, Gérard Aboudharam, Michel Signoli, Catherine Rigeade, Michel Drancourt, et al.. Evidence of a Louse-Borne Outbreak Involving Typhus in Douai, 1710-1712 during the War of Spanish Succession. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2010, 5 (10), pp.e15405. ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0015405⟩. ⟨halshs-00592033⟩

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