Developmental stress and disease susceptibility: the association between skeletal indicators of leprosy and other physiological stressors
Author(s): Sharon DeWitte
Leprosy has long interested bioarchaeologists because of its antiquity and because it can cause skeletal lesions. These lesions are primarily associated with lepromatous leprosy resulting from a minimal cellular immune response. This study tests the hypothesis that early-life developmental stress increases the risk of developing lepromatous leprosy by examining the association between skeletal signs of leprosy and other skeletal stress markers. A combined sample of 126 adults from two Danish cemeteries (c. 12th-13th centuries CE) was assessed for the presence of skeletal indicators of leprosy and other, non-specific stress markers. Based on the results of chi-square tests, there are no significant associations between any indicators of childhood stress and having two or more signs of leprosy. There is, however, a significant association between tibial periosteal lesions and having two or more signs of leprosy. These results suggest that childhood stress is not predictive of developing lepromatous leprosy (or skeletal manifestations thereof) but that stress that can occur later in life might be. However, several of the leprosy-lesions have low specificity and thus the co-occurrence of periosteal lesions and signs of leprosy might reflect other conditions rather than indicating that previous physiological stress increases the risk of lepromatous leprosy lesions.
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Developmental stress and disease susceptibility: the association between skeletal indicators of leprosy and other physiological stressors. Sharon DeWitte. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397398)
min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;