Microarchitecture of historic bone samples with tuberculosis

György Vekszler, Matthias Granner, Elena Nebot Valenzuela, Eduard Winter, Martin Dockner, Gerhard W Weber, Michael Pretterklieber, Maria Teschler-Nicola, Peter Pietschmann

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

2 Citations (Scopus)


Tuberculosis is among the leading causes of death from infectious diseases and affects many organ systems, including the skeleton. Skeletal tuberculosis is an extrapulmonary stage of tuberculosis, which occurs after the early and post-primary pulmonary stages of the disease. The aim of our study was to assess the microarchitecture of historic dry bone samples of subjects who have died of tuberculosis documented by post-mortem examinations. These preparations date to the pre-antibiotic era, and were provided by the Pathological-Anatomical Collection in the "Fools Tower" of the Natural History Museum Vienna (PASiN-NHM).We investigated macerated samples of 20 vertebral bodies, 19 femoral heads, and 20 tibiae of a total of 59 individuals diagnosed with tuberculosis from the nineteenth and early twentieth century. 10 femora and 10 tibiae from body donors that did not exhibit signs of infection and 10 (unaffected) vertebrae kept at the PASiN-NHM were studied as controls. The affected regions of the bone samples (and the corresponding regions of the control bones) were analyzed by microcomputed tomography using a Viscom X 8060 II system. Obtained images were analyzed semi-quantitatively. In samples with tuberculosis, independent of the investigated skeletal region, trabecular defects and decreased trabecular thickness were observed. Cortical porosity was seen in affected vertebrae and tibia; in tuberculous tibiae (but not in the femora) cortical thickness was decreased. In half of the individuals, cortical sclerosis was present; signs of ankylosis were observed mainly at the femoral heads affected with tuberculosis. We conclude that a combination of several alterations at the trabecular compartment could be suggestive of the presence of tuberculosis in historic skeletal remains.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-457
Number of pages9
JournalWiener Klinische Wochenschrift
Issue number11-12
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • Bone Density
  • Bone and Bones
  • Humans
  • Tibia/diagnostic imaging
  • Tuberculosis/diagnosis
  • X-Ray Microtomography


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