Summary: Three medieval bone samples with osteological evidence of tuberculosis infection were analysed for the presence of DNA sequences from Mycobacterium tuberculosis using a series of PCRs. In each case amplification of IS6110 and part of the β-subunit of RNA polymerase identified infection with a bacterium belonging to the M. tuberculosis complex. Amplification of the mtp40 genome fragment and the presence of a guanine residue at position 285 in the oxyR pseudogene, demonstrated the infecting strain to be similar to present day M. tuberculosis isolates rather than to Mycobacterium bovis. Spoligotyping, based on amplification of the direct repeat (DR) region of the mycobacterial genome, provided further evidence of similarity to M. tuberculosis and indicated a close relationship between isolates associated with two separate medieval burials. The study demonstrates the feasibility of amplifying multiple M. tuberculosis loci in ancient human remains and suggests important applications in the study of the palaeoepidemiology and virulence of tuberculosis in past populations.
Summary: This study investigated the ability of anaerobic periodontal bacteria to inactivate and resist killing by antimicrobial peptides through production of extracellular proteases. Antibacterial activities of peptides were assessed in a double-layer agarose diffusion assay, and MICs and MBCs were determined in broth microdilution assays. Culture supernates of Porphyromonas gingivalis and Prevotella spp. inactivated mastoparan, magainin II and cecropin B whilst Gram-positive oral supragingival bacteria had no effect. Inactivation was prevented by protease inhibitors and was unaffected by 45% human serum. Purified proteases from the periodontopathogen Porph. gingivalis inactivated peptides [cecropin B, brevinin, CAMEL (cecropin A 1–7 + melittin 2–9), mastoparan] as would be predicted from the amino acid sequences of the peptides and the known bond specificities of these Arg-x and Lys-x enzymes. MALDI-TOF MS revealed that inactivation of cecropin B by Porph. gingivalis protease was due to specific cleavage of the molecule. Inactivation of cecropin B by proteases took 10–15 min. Paradoxically, MICs of cecropin B against Proph. gingivalis and Prevotella intermedia were low, while Prevotella nigrescens was resistant, suggesting that production of proteases alone is insufficient to protect Proph. gingivalis and Prev. intermedia from the action of antimicrobial peptides. Thus, antimicrobial peptides could be developed as therapeutic agents targeted against specific periodontal pathogens.