New spine disease clue found in mummies

Refuting earlier claims, researchers have discovered that a degenerative spinal condition and not a spinal inflammatory disease hit members of the ancient Egyptian royal families from the 18th to the early 20th dynasties.

New spine disease clue found in mummies

London: Refuting earlier claims, researchers have discovered that a degenerative spinal condition and not a spinal inflammatory disease hit members of the ancient Egyptian royal families from the 18th to the early 20th dynasties.

Ankylosing spondylitis, a systemic disease that causes inflammation in the spinal joints was earlier thought to have affected members of the ancient Egyptians.

Instead, the team found, a degenerative spinal condition called diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH) affected them.

"In studying these ancient remains, we may be able to uncover the pathway of diseases - like ankylosing spondylitis or DISH - and how they might impact modern populations," explained Sahar Saleem with the Kasr Al Ainy Faculty of Medicine at the Cairo University in Egypt.

Previous research using x-ray images claimed that three Pharaohs (Amenhotep II, Ramesses II and his son Merenptah) displayed evidence of ankylosing spondylitis.

The current study used a more sophisticated imaging technology to study 13 royal Egyptian mummies from 1492-1153 BC to determine if signs of ankylosing spondylitis or DISH were present.

A diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis was ruled out due to the absence of joint erosion in the lower back and pelvis area on the CT scans of the mummies.

Signs of DISH were found in four Pharaohs.

In degenerative DISH, the hardening of ligaments along the vertebrae of the spine cause stiffness in the upper back and can affect other joints in the body.

"The process of mummification could induce spinal changes which should be considered when investigating diseases in ancient remains," Saleem added.

The study appeared in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology.

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