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A Combined Approach to Assess the Microbial Contamination of the Archimedes Palimpsest

Piñar, Guadalupe, Sterflinger, Katja, Ettenauer, Jörg, Quandt, Abigail, Pinzari, Flavia
Microbial ecology 2015 v.69 no.1 pp. 118-134
Acinetobacter, Blumeria, Cladosporium, Mucor, Nocardiopsis, actin, bacteria, bacterial communities, clones, collagen, fungal communities, fungal spores, fungi, genes, humans, microbial contamination, microbiome, quantitative polymerase chain reaction
A combined approach, using molecular and microscopic techniques, was used to identify the microbiota associated with the Archimedes Palimpsest, an unusual parchment manuscript. SEM analyses revealed the microbial damage to the collagen fibers and the presence of characteristic cell chains typical of filamentous bacteria and fungal spores. Molecular analysis confirmed a homogeneous bacterial community colonizing the manuscript. The phyla Proteobacteria and Actinobacteria were associated with this ancient parchment; the sequences were most related to uncultured clones detected in the human skin microbiome and in ephitelium, and to cultivated species of the genera Acinetobacter and Nocardiopsis. Nevertheless, a great variation was observed among the different sampled areas indicating fungal diversity. Blumeria spp. dominated in the healthy areas of the parchment while degraded areas showed disparate fungal communities, with dominant members of the genera Mucor and Cladosporium. In addition, the quantification of the β-actin gene by real-time PCR analyses (qPCR) revealed a higher fungal abundance on degraded areas than on the healthy ones.