Bone Remodeling Changes in an Individual with Tuberculosis-Induced, Left-Sided Femoroacetabular Joint Destruction, from Nineteenth-Century Milton, New Zealand

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Anne Marie E. Snoddy
Justyna J. Miszkiewicz
Karen M. Cooke
Peter Petchey
Hallie R. Buckley


Bone is dynamic, undergoing metabolic changes in response to behavioral and pathological stimuli. This information can be reconstructed in bioarchaeology using histological methods, providing another avenue to explore the experiences of past peoples. We report histological findings from midshaft femoral cortical bone of an identified individual from nineteenth-century New Zealand, who suffered from tuberculosis and had a historically documented period of invalidism. Materials: Burial 21 (B21) is a middle-aged male excavated from the nineteenth-century site of St. John’s burial ground, Milton. B21’s left proximal femur and acetabulum exhibited lytic lesions associated with tuberculosis-induced destruction of bone. Documentation, including a cause of death of “pneumonic phthisis haemorrhage,” and various biographic details exist for this burial. These suggest that B21’s left and right midshaft femur were under asymmetric biomechanical and pathological conditions and should show differences in the underlying bone remodeling. Methods: We collected data on Haversian bone microstructure geometric properties and densities from a total of 148 secondary osteons and 481 Haversian canals. Results: The left femur, from the tuberculosis-inflicted hip joint, had fewer, larger, and more irregularly shaped canals and osteons than the right femur. Discussion and Conclusion: These findings may indicate the left femur received less biomechanical stimulation than the right femur due to decreased weightbearing. It is also possible that the tuberculosis infection in this individual impacted his bone metabolic activity, leading to increased experiences of bone loss. The presented histological approach may enhance interpretations in bioarchaeology by identifying whether bone remodeling changes occur as a result of long-or short-term disuse.

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