Incan mummy frozen after human sacrifice still has infection in lungs after 500 years – giving new insight into diseases of the past

A 500-year-old frozen Incan mummy known as ‘The Maiden’ was suffering from a bacterial infection when she died – and being able to ‘diagnose’ the disease could lead to new insights into diseases of the past.

Maiden of the mountain: A 500-year-old frozen Incan mummy known as was suffering from a bacterial infection when she died – and being able to ‘diagnose’ the disease could lead to new insights into diseases of the past

The discovery could help defend against new illnesses – or the re-emergence of diseases of the past.

The mummy was suffering from an illness similar to tuberculosis when she was sacrificed on the Argentinian volcano Llullaillaco, 22,100 feet above sea level.

The find – using a new technique of swabbing the lips and comparing the swabs with those of current patients – is the first time a disease has been ‘diagnosed’ in such an ancient body.

‘Pathogen detection in ancient tissues isn’t new, but until now it’s been impossible to say whether the infectious agent was latent or active,’ says Corthals.

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