The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Bony responses associated with a malaria infection


Anthropology, Wayne State University

Saturday All day, Plaza Level Add to calendar

Malaria is a disease that affects over 250 million people per year in 106 malaria-endemic countries (World Health Organization 2010). Although malaria has a large effect upon humanity, this disease has received relatively little attention from a paleopathological perspective. Most of the research concerning this pathogen has been conducted from a biomedical paradigm, which is marginally useful when examining skeletal remains from archaeological contexts. While some anthropologist have employed molecular genetics to diagnose malaria in human remains, only a few researchers, such as Angel (1966), Stuart-Macadam (1992), and Walker et al. (2009), have specifically considered the role of malaria in the formation of bony responses including porotic hyperostosis and cribra orbitalia. However, in order to formulate the a prior assumptions necessary to make a differential diagnosis of a disease, one must first observe and record the pathologies of individuals who were afflicted with the condition (Buikstra 1976:324).

This study represents a documentation of the bony responses observed in a person who was infected with malaria at the time of his death. For this study, an individual from the Hamann-Todd collection at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History was examined. Examples of bony responses observed included porotic hyperostosis and discoloration of the articular surfaces of shoulder, hip, and iliosacral joints. The interpretations of these observations and the limitations and implications of these findings are discussed, as well as directions for future research relating to malaria and skeletal remains.

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