Oldest evidence of tuberculosis in Argentina: A multidisciplinary investigation in an adult male skeleton from Saujil, Tinogasta, Catamarca (905-1030 CE)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Leandro Hernán Luna
  • Claudia Marcela Aranda
  • Ana Luisa Santos
  • Helen D Donoghue
  • Houdini Ho Tin Wu
  • Gareth Llewellyn
  • Christopher Matthew Williams
  • Norma Ratto

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Multidisciplinary Institute of History and Human Sciences
  • Department of Biological Chemistry, School of Sciences, University of Buenos Aires, IQUIBICEN-CONICET, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • University of Coimbra
  • NIHR University College London Hospitals Biomedical Research Centre, UCL Cancer Institute, University College London, London WC1E 6DD, UK.
  • School of Biosciences (former MSc student)
  • Univ Birmingham Edgbaston
  • Swansea University Medical School, Institute of Life Science, Swansea University, Swansea, United Kingdom.


The Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTC) has affected South American populations since ca. 200 years BCE. In Argentina, possible cases date from ca. 1000-1400 Common Era (CE). This paper describes the oldest (905-1030 CE) confirmed case of tuberculosis (TB) in a young adult male from Lomitas de Saujil (Tinogasta, Catamarca, Argentina). Osteolytic lesions on the bodies of the lower spine were macroscopically and radiographically identified. Bilateral new bone formation was seen on the visceral vertebral third of several ribs and in long bones, compatible with hypertrophic osteoarthropathy. Representative rib and hand bones gave profiles for MTC-specific C27-C32 mycocerosic acid lipid biomarkers; these were strongest in one heavily-lesioned lower rib, which also had MTC-diagnostic C76-C89 mycolic acids and positive amplification of MTC-typical IS6110 aDNA fragments. During the first millennium CE, the intense social interaction, the spatial circumscription of villages among the pre-Hispanic societies in the mesothermal valleys of Catamarca and the fluid contacts with the Eastern lowlands, valleys and puna, were factors likely to favor disease transmission. It is proposed that TB arrived from northern Chile and dispersed towards the northeast into the Yocavil valley, where several cases of TB infection were macroscopically identified for a later chronology.

Bibliographic note

Copyright © 2020 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Original languageEnglish
Article number101995
Pages (from-to)101995
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Sep 2020


  • Infectious diseases, M. tuberculosis complex (MTC), Paleopathology, Pott's disease, Pre-hispanic populations, Tuberculous spondylitis