By John Ostapkovich
PHILADELPHIA (CBS)–A Philadelphia Museum known for its anatomical displays has helped expand our knowledge of a deadly disease.
An article in the “New England Journal of Medicine” pinpoints the strain of cholera in a 19th century pandemic, thanks to intestines of cholera victims preserved all this time at the Mutter Museum.
Its CEO George Wohlreich says,”DNA from the cholera of a victim who died in the 1849 pandemic was run through a sequencer and was shown to be the great-great-great-grandparent of the current cholera.”
Wohlreich says there are five current studies involving museum tissue and bone samples.
Study co-author Anna Dhoty says this is why the Mutter is about more than curiosities.
“We have no idea what science is going to be able to do in the future. Our predominantly 19th century collection can have 21st century impact.”
The doctor who preserved the intestines did so before germ theory was widely developed and DNA was unknown.