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The Search for an Old Cholera Strain

Researchers are searching through an Italian graveyard in hopes of finding DNA belonging to the Vibrio cholerae strain that swept through the region in 1850, LiveScience reports.

In an apparent bid to halt the epidemic, villagers in Badia Pozzeveri in Tuscany treated cholera victims in lime when burying them. This, Stephanie Pappas notes at LiveScience, preserved the victims' bones and possibly also the DNA of the bacteria infecting them.

Ohio State University's Clark Spencer Larsen says that if he and his team uncover V. cholerae DNA from this historical outbreak, they could compare it to modern strains to study how it has evolved and possibly gain insight that could lead to better treatment.

"We haven't found it yet, but we are hopeful. We've found other DNA associated with humans so we're continuing the search," Larsen said in a statement.

The graveyard also includes the remains of people who died of that Black Death as well as other causes that the researchers plan to investigate.

"What we are trying to do is to reconstruct these populations as if they were alive, to get a glimpse about what their day-to-day lives were like and what their health was like, as well as how they died," Larsen added.