'Causa mortis' in a fifteenth century infant mummy in St. Francis' Basilica in Arezzo (Italy)

O. Linoli


The cause of death of a 3-year-old girl who lived in the 15th century has been determined by examining her mummified remains. She died of septicemia induced by Gram negative bacilli, which were found in the subcutaneous adipose tissue in an arm, in the subserous fat of the mesentery, and in the tissue of the interstice of the pancreas. Heaps of small histiocytes always accompany these bacilli. In two places the bacilli were seriosly degenerated by immunoglobulins. The small mummy also presents a mesenteric lymphadenitis. It shows a diffuse reactive hyperplasia of small reticular cells. Paleopathological techniques allow the identification of many preserved tissues in mummies as much as six centuries old, and shed light on the biological processes leading to death.

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