Scientists believe that a cure for the deadly cholera virus could lie in an Italian cemetery containing the remains of victims from 200 years ago.
Researchers from the Ohio State University have been studying the abandoned Badia Pozzeveri church in the Tuscany region, which holds the remains from victims from a deadly cholera epidemic which swept the globe in the early 1800s.
Clark Spencer Larsen, professor of anthropology at The Ohio State University, and his team believe that this Tuscany graveyard contains some of the "best preserved remains of cholera victims of this time period ever found".
They are looking for traces of the pathogen that caused cholera and they believe that it can be in these remains.
The bodies were buried in a rush and coated in lime which has hardened over time and preserved DNA and other bacteria.
Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Jose, Larsen added: "The lime encasing is pretty amazing for bone preservation, too."
However, the DNA that they have been searching for, DNA from Virbrio cholera – the bacteria that causes the illness – has so far eluded them.
"We haven't found it yet, but we are hopeful. We've found other DNA associated with humans so we're continuing the search," Larsen said.
"If we found the DNA we could see how cholera has evolved and compare it to what the bacteria is like today. That's the first step to possibly finding a cure."