BACKGROUND: Leprosy was common in Europe eight to twelve centuries ago but molecular confirmation of this has been lacking. We have extracted M. leprae ancient DNA (aDNA) from medieval bones and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) typed the DNA, this provides insight into the pattern of leprosy transmission in Europe and may assist in the understanding of M. leprae evolution. METHODS AND FINDINGS: Skeletons have been exhumed from 3 European countries (the United Kingdom, Denmark and Croatia) and are dated around the medieval period (476 to 1350 A.D.). we tested for the presence of 3 previously identified single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 10 aDNA extractions. M. leprae aDNA was extracted from 6 of the 10 bone samples. SNP analysis of these 6 extractions were compared to previously analysed European SNP data using the same PCR assays and were found to be the same. Testing for the presence of SNPs in M. leprae DNA extracted from ancient bone samples is a novel approach to analysing European M. leprae DNA and the findings concur with the previously published data that European M. leprae strains fall in to one group (SNP group 3). CONCLUSIONS: These findings support the suggestion that the M. leprae genome is extremely stable and show that archaeological M. leprae DNA can be analysed to gain detailed information about the genotypic make-up of European leprosy, which may assist in the understanding of leprosy transmission worldwide.