Tag Archives: Sardinia


Below is the Program for the Conference MUMMIES, BONES, and ANCIENT PATHOGENS to be held in Sardinia, Italy 7-8 September 2012.  You can find a PDF for download at the bottom.  I hope everyone has an incredible time!



7-8 September 2012

STINTINO Palazzo Comunale, Sala Consiliare – Stintino, Sardinia, Italy


9:45-10:15 Opening of the Meeting
Salvatore Rubino, Co-chair Organizing Committee
Antonio Diana, Mayor of Stintino
Francesco Tamponi, Responsabile Regionale per i beni culturali ecclesiastici

Daniela Rovina, Soprintendenza Archeologica per le Provincie di Sassari e Nuoro
Attilio Mastino, Rector, University of Sassari

10:15-12:00 Session I: Archaic and Modern Genomes

Piero Cappuccinelli (Session Chair) Introductory remarks

Susanna Sawyer
Department Evolutionary Genetics, Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany
Archaic Genomes: A Story Written in Neanderthal and Denisova DNA

Carsten Pusch
Institute of Human Genetics, Division of Molecular Genetics, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany
First Insights into the Metagenome of Ancient Egyptian Mummies Using Next Generation Sequencing

11:15-11:30 Coffee break

Paolo Francalacci
Dipartimento di Scienze della Natura e del Territorio, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
Placing the Sequence of “Ötzi the Iceman” in the High Resolution Y chromosome Phlylogeny by Whole Genome Sequencing

12:00-15:15 Session II: Evolutionary Medicine, Ancient Pathogens and Pathologies

David Kelvin (Session Chair) Introductory remarks

Bernardino Fantini
Institute for the History of Medicine and Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
The Convergence of Genomic Studies and Historical Analysis of Infectious Diseases: the Case of Black Death

Marco Milanese
Dipartimento di Storia, Scienze dell’Uomo e della Formazione, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
The Biological Archives of Alghero: Archaeological Questions and Expectations from Biohistory and Biotechnology Projects in the Study of Human Remains from Urban Populations during the Thirteenth to the Seventeenth Centuries

13:00-14:30 Lunch Break

14:30-16:00 Session II: Evolutionary Medicine, Ancient Pathogens and Pathologies (Continued)

Gino Fornaciari
Division of Paleopathology, History of Medicine and Bioethics, Department of Oncology, Transplants and Advanced Technologies in Medicine
Medical School University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy
Cancer and Infectious Diseases: the Challenge of Soft Tissue Paleopathology

Frank Rühli
Centre for Evolutionary Medicine, Institute of Anatomy, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
Evolutionary Medicine: Ancient Mummies and More…

15:30-16:00 Coffee break

16:00-17:30 Session III: Ancient Pathogens

Giovani Fadda (Session Chair) Introductory remarks

Eugenia Tognotti
Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche, Università degli Studi di Sassari, Sassari, Italy
Epidemics and Plagues in Sardinia from the 15th to the 20th Century

Raffaella Bianucci
Department of Anatomy, Pharmacology and Legal Medicine, University of Turin, Turin, Italy
Vector-Borne Diseases in Ancient Human Remains

Helen Donoghue
Centre for Infectious Diseases and International Health, University College London, London, UK

Insights into Ancient Tuberculosis and Leprosy

17:30-18:00 Sparkling Wine Cocktail (Brut/Prosecco!)

End of the first day


9:30-12:15 Session IV: Bioarchaeology, Modeling, and Perspectives on Ancient Pathogens

Mohammed Al Ahdal and Marco Milanese (Session Chairs): Introductory remarks

Archaeology of Sant’Imbenia

Elisabetta Garau, Marco Rendeli
Dipartimento di Storia, Scienze dell’Uomo e della Formazione, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
Seeds for Thought: Overview of the Archaeology of Sant’Imbenia

Rossella Filigheddu
Dipartimento di Scienze della Natura e del Territorio, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
Phenotypic Analysis of Seeds from Sant’Imbenia

Alberto Leon
University Health Network, Toronto, Canada
Summary of Sequencing of Seeds from Sant’Imbenia

Analysis of a Crypt of Sant’Antonio Abate Cathedral, Castelsardo

Franco Campus
Dipartimento di Storia, Scienze dell’Uomo e della Formazione, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
Bioarcheaology of a Crypt of Sant’Antonio Abate Cathedral, Castelsardo

Andrea Montella, Vittorio Mazzarello
Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
Histological Analysis of Mummified Tissue from the Crypt of Sant’Antonio Abate Cathedral, Castelsardo

Luca Simbula, Gianni Meloni, Paolo Lampus
Dipartimento di Scienze Chirurgiche, Microchirurgiche e Mediche, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
X-Ray Examination of Mummies and Bones from a Crypt of Sant’Antonio Abate Cathedral, Castelsardo

Cristiano Farace, Roberto Madeddu
Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
A Possible Estimation of Historical Pollution Increases by Heavy Metals Analysis in Ancient Bones: Emerging Data from Castelsardo Mummies and Comparison with Mummies from Other Centuries

Manuela Murgia, Bianca Paglietti
Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
Identification of Sporigens in a Crypt of Sant’Antonio Abate Cathedral, Castelsardo

Claudia Viganò, Patrizia Marongiu
Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
Analysis of Pathogens Using PCR of Biomaterial from a Crypt of Sant’Antonio Abate Cathedral, Castelsardo

11:00-11:20 Coffee

Luca Ruiu, Ignazio Floris
Dipartimento di Agraria, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
First Report of Insects and Other Arthropods on the Mummies Found inside a Crypt of the Castelsardo Cathedral (Sardinia, Italy)

Nikki Kelvin
Dipartimento di Storia, Scienze dell’Uomo e della Formazione, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
Mother-and-Infant Deaths from a Crypt of Sant’Antonio Abate Cathedral, Castelsardo

Historical Modelling and Perspectives

Alessandro Ponzelleti
Art Historian, Sassari, Italy
Practices and Burial Crypts in Churches of Sardinia: Some Examples

Luca Sanna
Dipartimento di Storia, Scienze dell’Uomo e della Formazione, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
An Integrated Bioarchaeology Project in North-West Sardinia: the Contribution of Preventive Archeology

Dario Piombino-Mascali
EURAC, Bolzano, Italy
The Sicily Mummy Project

Giampaolo Piga, Assumpciò Malgosa, Antonio Brunetti, Simona Spada, Stefano Enzo.
Dipartimento di Chimica e Farmacia, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
Anthropological and Chemico-Physical Studies on the Mummies of Peter II of Aragon and Blanca d’Anjou

Pierre-Olivier Méthot
Institute for the History of Medicine and Health, Geneva University, Geneva, Switzerland
What is a Pathogen? Perspectives (and Problems) from Medical Bacteriology and Pathogenomics

12:30-12:50 Concluding Remarks

David Kelvin
A Cryptic Approach to Future Studies

Salvatore Rubino
Closing Remarks

End of the Meeting

Organizing Committee
Salvatore Rubino (Co-Chair), David Kelvin (Co-Chair)
Attilio Mastino, Marco Milanese, Bruno Masala, Nikki Kelvin, and Andrea Montella

University of Sassari
• “International PhD School in Biomolecular and Biotechnological Sciences”
• Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche
• Scuola di Dottorato, “Storia, Letterature e Cultura Mediterraneo”

International Sponsors
• University Health Network, Toronto, Canada
• IDR, Canada
• Shantou University Medical School, Shantou, China
• Journal of Infection in Developing Countries

This meeting is in celebration of the 450th anniversary of the founding of the University of Sassari.

Organizing Secretariat: Segreteria Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche, Viale San Pietro 43 B, 07100 Sassari segrdip@uniss.it

To register or receive more information or submit an abstract: rubino(at)uniss(dot)it or nkelvin(at)jidc(dot)org

Mummies, Bones, and Ancient Pathogens Conference Program

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A Plague of Bones: Conference!

Without a doubt, my favourite research project I have ever been a part of is the ancient Pathogens project. This was my research focus during my Visiting Professorship at the University of Sassari, Sardinia, Italy in 2010. This was my Indian Jones moment, except the treasure was not rare artifacts but the discovery of ancient pathogens.

In Sardinia there is an abundance of ancient and medieval mass graves (see burial map).  Although these mass graves data back more than 3,000 years, the reason for the mass grave construction still remains a mystery.  Thereby a fascinating scientific problem exists:  What did these people buried together die from?

Archeology of Sardinia

We hypothesized that by sequencing the nonhuman DNA extracted from the bones and teeth of the victims in the mass graves, we could identify a pathogen that may have infected these people and caused their death.   Our list of pathogenic suspects that may have caused death included Yersinia pestis, Salmonella enterica, Bacillos anthracis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis.  This mode of attack, sequencing ancient DNA to determine cause of death, is not new and previous examples include identification of Salmonella enterica enterica serovar Thypi as the causative agent of the ancient plague of Athens in 430 BC [1] and Yersinia pestis as the agent of the Black Plague [2–4] although the later has been disputed [5].   Importantly, mass graves are commonly devised during a disease outbreak to limit the spread of disease, as in Europe during the Black Plague.  Therefore, we speculated that the people buried together in the mass graves of Sardinia died of the same cause, a disease epidemic.  By identifying and studying the causative agent of ancient plagues, we hope to learn about the evolving nature of human and animal modern pathogens so that we can model current and future epidemics.

Since I left Sardinia and my little project, the ancient Pathogen Project has grown enormously.  And that brings us to the announcement of the Ancient Pathogens meeting hosted by Professor Salvatore Rubino in Sardinia, Italy, in September.  The conference is sponsered by JIDC, University Health Network, Shantou University Medical School, Immune Diagnostics and Research, Comune Di Stintino, University of Sassari. This is an exciting opportunity!

Mass grave excavation in Alghero, Sardinia

Titled Mummies, Bones, and Ancient Pathogens, the conference will take place 7-8 September 2012, in Stintino, Sardinia, Italy, at the STINTINO Palazzo Comunale. Over the course of the two days, four sessions on “Archaic and Modern Genomes”, “Evolutionary Medicine, Ancient Pathogens and Pathologies”, “Ancient Pathogens”, and “Bioarchaeology of Sardinia and Sicily” will be held. Several of Europe’s foremost researchers in the fields of Archaeology, Bioarchaeology, the History of Medicine, and Ancient Pathogens are featured speakers, including Prof. Carsten Pusch of the Institute of Human GeneticsUniversity of Tübingen, Germany;  Prof. Bernardino Fantini University of Geneva, Switzerland; Prof. Marco Milanese, University of Sassari; Susanna Sawyer University of Tübingen, Germany; Prof. Raffaella Bianucci University of Turin; Prof. Paolo Francalacci University of Sassari; Prof. Marco Rendeli, University of Sassari; Elisabetta Garau, Unversity of Sassari; Rossella Filigheddu, University of Sassari; and Dr. Alberto Leo Shantou University to name a few. Just to tantalize you, here are some titles of the exciting presentations:

“Archaic Genomes: A Story Written in Neanderthal and Denisova DNA”

“Placing the sequence of “Ötzi the Iceman” in the high resolution Y chromosome phlylogeny by whole genome sequencing”

“Cancer and Infectious Diseases: the Challenge of Soft Tissue Paleopathology”

“Vector-Borne Diseases in Ancient Human Remains”

“The Sicily Mummy Project”

“First Insights into the Metagenome of Ancient Egyptian Mummies Using Next Generation Sequencing”

“Sequencing DNA from Ancient Seeds with Medicinal Properties”

For more information including registration, please visit the conference website http://www.mummiesbonesandancientpathogens.org/  or email Prof. Salvatore Rubino at rubino(at)uniss(dot)it

Reference List

    1.    Papagrigorakis MJ, Yapijakis C, Synodinos PN, Baziotopoulou-Valavani E (2006) DNA examination of ancient dental pulp incriminates typhoid fever as a probable cause of the Plague of Athens. Int J Infect Dis 10: 206-214. S1201-9712(05)00178-5 [pii];10.1016/j.ijid.2005.09.001 [doi].

2.    Raoult D, Aboudharam G, Crubezy E, Larrouy G, Ludes B, Drancourt M (2000) Molecular identification by “suicide PCR” of Yersinia pestis as the agent of medieval black death. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 97: 12800-12803. 10.1073/pnas.220225197 [doi];220225197 [pii].

3.    Drancourt M, Aboudharam G, Signoli M, Dutour O, Raoult D (1998) Detection of 400-year-old Yersinia pestis DNA in human dental pulp: an approach to the diagnosis of ancient septicemia. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 95: 12637-12640.

4.    Drancourt M, Raoult D (2004) Molecular detection of Yersinia pestis in dental pulp. Microbiology 150: 263-264.

5.    Gilbert MT, Cuccui J, White W, Lynnerup N, Titball RW, Cooper A, Prentice MB (2004) Absence of Yersinia pestis-specific DNA in human teeth from five European excavations of putative plague victims. Microbiology 150: 341-354.


Filed under Countries, Events, Infectious Disease, JIDC News, News, Salmonella, Tuberculosis, Yersinia pestis

Ana: Salmonella in Sardinia

I am please to present a Postcard written by the lovely Ana Carolina!  Ana is a microbiologist from Brazil who carried out part of her PhD in Sardinia, Italy studying salmonella.  I was lucky enough to work in Sardinia at the same time as Ana Carolina while I was completing my Visiting Professorship at the University of Sassari.  Ana works incredibly hard but always with a smile on her face.  It was a delight to see her everyday. I am happy to call Ana a colleague and a friend!

I went to Sardinia!

In 2008 I started my PhD in food microbiology at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), in Porto Alegre, Brazil. It was a moment of transition, because I did my master’s degree working with mycotoxins and now I decided to work with Salmonella. I was accepted to a group that has studied the occurrence of outbreaks of salmonellosis in the state of Rio Grande do Sul (RS) (southern Brazil) for 10 years, the Laboratory of Food Microbiology of the ICTA/UFRGS.


This research group had already made several discoveries regarding Salmonella Enteritidis (S. Enteritidis).  In previous work done in the Laboratory of Food Microbiology, the spvR gene (Salmonella plasmid virulance)was identified in 82.7% of S. Enteritidis infections involved in food poisoning cases which occurred in RS from 1999 to 2000 [1] . These isolates were also characterized according to their antibiotic resistance, and it was shown that there was a high percentage of sensitivity to most of the drugs tested [1] . Oliveira et al. [2] demonstrated that strains of S. Enteritidis isolated from these outbreaks which occurred in RS in 2001 and 2002 showed similar resistance profiles as the lines of the preceding period.  Interestingly, it was identified that one strain of S. Enteritidis was involved in more than 95% of the salmonellosis cases which occurred in RS [2]. Importantly, other work from the laboratory evaluated the resistance of S. Enteritidis SE86 to disinfectants commonly used in food industries [2]. It was concluded from this work that peracetic acid, sodium hypochlorite and quaternary ammonium were able to inactivate S. Enteritidis SE86; however, this strain was more resistant to the concentration of 200 ppm sodium hypochlorite (commonly used in Brazil).

Salmonella by gyalogbodza.hu

Continuing the investigation into the strains of S. Enteritidis which are responsible for salmonellosis and acid resistance in RS, my PhD project aims to investigate the expression of resistance genes which may contribute to the involvement of this predominant strain of S. Enteritidis in food in Brazil. That was the part of the thesis that took me to the Laboratorio di Microbiologia at Univesrsità degli Studi di Sassari.


So, with the desire of live outside Brazil and to enrich the Brazilian science, I went to Sardinia or Sardegna, Italy.  Sardinia is a large Island in the Mediterranean Sea.


To realize this dream, I sent emails to  Professore Salvatore Rubino (Editor-in-Chief of JIDC) and Professore Sergio Uzzau, asking if I could perform one year of research in their laboratory. After their positive response, I applied for a scholarship to Capes, a Brazilian funding agency for research. The result was one year living in Sassari (2009 to 2010), developing my thesis.

Landscape of Sardinia

Landscape of Sardinia by Travel around the World

In Sardinia genetic modifications in the Brasilian S. Enteritidis (strain SE86) were preformed. With the help of Doctoressa Donatella Bacciu, we performed knockout techniques [3] and epitope tagging [4] in four different genes to check the expression of these strain’s forward acidity and high temperatures, results which I am currently writing up.

It was an incredible experience! Sardinia has breathtaking landscapes, incredible history and very nice people. The university gave me all necessary support for my research; with great colleagues guiding me … I learned a lot, both inside and outside the laboratory. I returned to my country with lots of knowledge: the language, the laboratory techniques, dear friends. I love Sardinia!

 Today I am writing the articles and the thesis, because I have to finish my PhD

The Italian Island of Sardinia by Hikenow.net

by March 2012.

 Post doc? Why not? Science takes us to places that we never dreamed… 


 Ana is 31 years old. She studied biology (2000 until 2004), then did a two year master degree ( between 2005 and 2007) working with  Aspergillus flavus (food microbiology). In 2008, she started her PhD (food microbiology) at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Ana’s story to be post in Portuguese soon!



Silvia, Francesca, me, Massimo and Donatella: friends and colleagues of the microbiology laboratory in SardiniaAna in Sardinia, ItalyAna in Sardinia

Amazing food and wine

Reference List


    1.    Geimba MP, Tondo EC, de Oliveira FA, Canal CW, Brandelli A (2004) Serological characterization and prevalence of spvR genes in Salmonella isolated from foods involved in outbreaks in Brazil. J Food Prot 67: 1229-1233.

    2.    de Oliveira FA, Brandelli A, Tondo EC (2006) Antimicrobial resistance in Salmonella enteritidis from foods involved in human salmonellosis outbreaks in southern Brazil. New Microbiol 29: 49-54.

    3.    Datsenko KA, Wanner BL (2000) One-step inactivation of chromosomal genes in Escherichia coli K-12 using PCR products. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 97: 6640-6645. 10.1073/pnas.120163297 [doi];120163297 [pii].

    4.    Uzzau S, Figueroa-Bossi N, Rubino S, Bossi L (2001) Epitope tagging of chromosomal genes in Salmonella. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 98: 15264-15269. 10.1073/pnas.261348198 [doi];261348198 [pii].


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