Brief communication: Mass spectroscopic characterization of tetracycline in the skeletal remains of an ancient population from Sudanese Nubia 350–550 CE
Article first published online: 17 JUN 2010
Copyright © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
American Journal of Physical Anthropology
Volume 143, Issue 1, pages 151–154, September 2010
How to Cite
Nelson, M. L., Dinardo, A., Hochberg, J. and Armelagos, G. J. (2010), Brief communication: Mass spectroscopic characterization of tetracycline in the skeletal remains of an ancient population from Sudanese Nubia 350–550 CE. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol., 143: 151–154. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.21340
- Issue published online: 16 AUG 2010
- Article first published online: 17 JUN 2010
- Manuscript Accepted: 9 APR 2010
- Manuscript Received: 15 DEC 2009
- chemical extraction
Histological evidence of tetracycline use has been reported in an ancient X-Group population (350–550 CE) from Sudanese Nubia (Bassett et al., 1980). When bone samples were examined by fluorescent microscopy under UV light at 490 Å yellow–green fluorophore deposition bands, similar to those produced by tetracycline, were observed, suggesting significant exposure of the population to the antibiotic. These reports were met skeptically with claims that the fluorescence was the result of postmortem taphonomic infiltration of bacteria and fungi. Herein, we report the acid extraction and mass spectroscopic characterization of the antibiotic tetracycline from these samples. The bone samples were demineralized in anhydrous hydrogen fluoride which dissolved the bone-complexed tetracycline, followed by isolation by solid phase extraction on reverse-phase media. Chemical characterization by high pressure liquid chromatography mass-spectroscopic procedures showed that the retention times and mass spectra of the bone extract were identical to tetracycline when treated similarly. These results indicate that a natural product tetracycline was detectable within the sampled bone and was converted to the acid-stable form, anhydrotetracycline, with a mass + H of 427.1 amu. Our findings show that the bone sampled is labeled by the antibiotic tetracycline, and that the NAX population ingested and were exposed to tetracycline-containing materials in their dietary regime. Am J Phys Anthropol 143:151–154, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.