An unusually aggressive, ancient form of Paget’s disease of bone has been discovered in medieval skeletons from the North West of England.
Paget’s disease of bone causes new bone material to be grown faster and weaker than it normally is, leading to complications.
Researchers used protein and RNA analyses to show that the disease that afflicted the skeletons was similar, but not identical, to modern Paget’s disease.
The disease affected 16 per cent of all remains found during excavations, with up to 75 per cent of the skeleton’s affected by the disease and some dying as young as 35.
Suspected cases of the condition had been found previously in other remains, but these diagnoses were uncertain and so the disease’s history had been unclear.
Biochemist Robert Layfield of the University of Nottingham and colleagues first analysed six of the medieval skeletons that have been unearthed from the Norton Priory site in Cheshire, in the northwest of England.
The priory site contains the remains of an abbey that dates back to between the 12th and 16th centuries.
The researchers found that each of the remains displayed changes that were similar to those seen in modern instances of Paget’s disease of bone.