The skeleton of a woman who died 800 years ago on the outskirts of the ancient city of Troy in modern Turkey has yielded the first record of maternal sepsis in the fossil record.
The ancient skeleton of a woman who lived near the storied city of Troy has given up the secrets of what killed her.
Researchers unearthed the Byzantine bones and discovered both that she was pregnant and that a bacterial infection probably caused her death.
In the 800-year-old bones, which had been buried in a grave lined with stones, researchers discovered strawberry-sized nodules near her ribs.
After opening the nodules, the researchers found ghost cells, and were even able to fully extract and piece together the DNA of the bacterial strains that killed her when she was likely around 30 years old, during the era of the Byzantine Empire.
Amazingly, these samples yielded enough DNA to fully reconstruct the genomes of two species of bacteria, Staphylococcus saprophyticus and Gardnerella vaginalis, which infected the woman and likely led to her death, Hendrik Poinar, of McMaster University's Ancient DNA Centre, said in a statement.