-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
WEDNESDAY, Sept. 4 (HealthDay News) -- King Richard III, who
ruled England from 1483 to 1485, suffered from a roundworm
infection, according to new research.
A team of British scientists made the discovery after examining
the king's remains, which were found by archaeologists in 2012.
The findings were published Sept. 3 in the journal
"Despite Richard's noble background, it appears that his lifestyle did not completely protect him from intestinal parasite infection, which would have been very common at the time," Jo Appleby, a lecturer in human bio-archaeology at the University of Leicester, said in a journal news release.
Roundworm eggs enter the body through contaminated food, water
or soil. Once in the body, the parasite's eggs hatch into larvae
and move throughout the body to the lungs, where they mature. The
roundworms crawl into the airways and throat, where they are
swallowed into the intestines, where they can grow up to 12 inches
Using a powerful microscope, researchers led by Piers Mitchell,
of the department of archaeology and anthropology at the University
of Cambridge, analyzed soil samples taken from the skeletal remains
of Richard III, including his pelvis and skull. Samples also were
collected from the soil surrounding his grave.
The researchers found multiple roundworm eggs in the soil taken
from the king's pelvis, where his intestines once were. They found
no signs of eggs in the samples taken from his skull, however.
Very few eggs were found in the soil surrounding the king's
gravesite, suggesting there was no contamination from the dumping
of human waste in the area after he was buried. Therefore, the
researchers concluded that Richard III had a roundworm infection
during his lifetime.
"Our results show that Richard was infected with roundworms in his intestines, although no other species of intestinal parasite were present in the samples we studied," Mitchell said in the news release. "We would expect nobles of this period to have eaten meats such as beef, pork and fish regularly, but there was no evidence for the eggs of the beef, pork or fish tapeworm. This may suggest that his food was cooked thoroughly, which would have prevented the transmission of these parasites."
Although roundworm infection is rare in the United Kingdom
today, it remains one of the most common health conditions in the
world, affecting up to 25 percent of all people, according to the
Visit the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious
Diseases to find out more about
parasitic roundworm diseases.
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