Volume 20, Number 2—February 2014
Poxvirus Viability and Signatures in Historical Relics
|Location, date of origination, description of the artifact (date discovered)||Laboratory testing*
|Live virus isolated||Evidence by electron microscopy||Viral DNA isolated||Human DNA isolated||Other testing|
|Egypt, 1157 bce, mummy of Ramses V with lesions; lesions were present in a centrifugal distribution and had an appearance similar to smallpox (1898, 1979)||No (2)||No (2)||No†||No†||Viral particles and faint immunologic reactivity with variola antibody; negative radioimmunoassay result for smallpox (23)|
|Egypt, 1200–1100 bce, piece of skin from male mummy with a typical smallpox rash (1911)||Portion of skin did not show definite pathologic characteristics of smallpox (24)|
|Italy, sixteenth century, corpse exhumed from a crypt; lesions were umbilicated, monomorphic, and in a centrifugal distribution (1986)||No (25)||Yes (25,26)||No, by molecular hybridization (29); no, by DNA isolation and real-time PCR†||No†||Orthopoxvirus antigens not detected by hemagglutination or enzyme immunoassay (25)|
|Canada, 1640–1650, bones from an adult man located in a burial plot on Native American land; the tribe was known to have had a smallpox epidemic in 1634 (1966)||Bone analysis result was consistent with osteomyelitis variolosa (27)|
|Russia, late seventeenth to early eighteenth centuries, corpses exhumed from permafrost; 1 grave had multiple bodies and evidence suggested quick postmortem burial; samples were analyzed from 1 corpse (2004)||Yes, variola virus–related DNA (28)|
|England, 1729–1856, piece of skin with lesions attached to a skeleton exhumed from a crypt (1985)||No (29)||No†||No†|
|Russia, nineteenth century, corpses in permafrost recovered during flooding; corpses were from an area of a smallpox outbreak in the nineteenth century (1991)||No (30)|
|Kentucky, USA, 1840–1860, mummified remains of a body with lesions discovered at a construction site (2000)||No†||No†*|
|New York, New York, USA, City, mid-1800s, mummified remains of a body with lesions contained within an iron coffin discovered at a construction site (2011)||No†||No†||No†||Yes, from a tooth†|
|Virginia, USA, 1876, scab from the arm of an infant to be used for community vaccination; found in letter sent from son to father in Virginia; scab was on display at a museum (2011)||No†||Yes, non-variola Orthopoxvirus DNA†||Yes†|
|New Mexico, USA, late nineteenth century, scabs from vaccination sites contained in an envelope, which was contained within a book (2003)||No†||Yes, non-variola Orthopoxvirus DNA†||No†|
|Arkansas, USA, 1871–1926, suspected smallpox scabs on display at a museum (2004)||No†||No†||No†|
*Published laboratory results are accompanied by the reference (number in parentheses).
†Previously unpublished results.
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