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The oldest sliced cheese in the world was found in an Egyptian tomb
The taste of cheese often gets better through a ripening process, but this cheese was probably a little too long. Researchers discovered a 3,200-year-old sliced cheese in an Egyptian grave, which was apparently intended as a food for the passage to the realm of the dead. The discoverers report that this is the oldest hard cheese ever found - including an ancient bacterium that can cause serious infectious diseases.
It was the tomb of Ptahmes, the mayor of Memphis in Egypt, who worked around 3200 years ago. The researchers found an ancient cheese among the grave goods - the oldest hard cheese to date. In laboratory analyzes, the scientists also discovered indications that the cheese is contaminated with an ancient bacterium of the Brucella melitensis type, which can trigger the dangerous infectious disease brucellosis. The research report was recently published in the journal "Analytical chemistry".
On the trail of the pharaohs
The mayor's grave was discovered and excavated in 1885. A short time later, however, it was spilled under quicksand. It was rediscovered in 2010. The archaeologists found a few broken glasses in the grave. A glass contained a solidified whitish mass in a linen fabric. Initially, Enrico Greco's team did not know what the substance was and analyzed it in the laboratory.
The oldest cheese in the world
As found in the analyzes, the find was a milk product that was made from sheep and goat milk. The team led by Enrico Greco also found a peptide that indicates the presence of the bacterium Brucella melitensis. This can trigger the dangerous brucellosis disease. The researchers report that this is also the oldest evidence of this bacterium.
Ancient killer bacteria
Brucellosis is a potentially fatal disease that belongs to the so-called zoonoses. These are diseases that can spread from animals to humans. Typically, people become infected through contaminated food, such as pasteurized milk products. The findings represent the oldest biomolecule detection of the disease to date, the researchers report.
As reported by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), brucellosis is a disease that is common in domestic and farm animals worldwide - but predominantly in the Mediterranean, on the Arabian Peninsula, in Africa, Asia, Central and South America. In Germany, farm animals such as cattle, sheep and goats are considered free of the bacteria. Nevertheless, according to the RKI, there are occasionally imported cases.
How does brucellosis manifest?
People get sick primarily from eating contaminated food or through direct contact with infected animals. After an incubation period of five to 60 days, the brucellosis breaks out. Symptoms such as fever, nausea and vomiting, tiredness, headache and night sweats appear. The fever can persist for up to 21 days. After the symptoms have subsided, about five percent of those affected develop a chronic course.
Brucellosis can sometimes be fatal
If the infection is not recognized or not properly treated, longer disease courses are not unusual, explains the RKI. Chronic brucellosis can lead to reduced performance and depression. In rare cases, the bacteria attack the bone marrow, which threatens anemia, leukopenia and thrombopenia. Inflammation of the inner lining of the heart (endocarditis) is also possible. According to RKI, about two percent of untreated brucellosis cases are fatal. (vb)