Cookie policy: This site uses cookies (small files stored on your computer) to simplify and improve your experience of this website. Cookies are small text files stored on the device you are using to access this website. For more information please take a look at our terms and conditions. Some parts of the site may not work properly if you choose not to accept cookies.

Join

Subscribe or Register

Existing user? Login

Richard III's roundworm

  • Print
  • Share
  • Comment
  • Save
  • Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF

My continuing interest in the discovery of the remains of King Richard III (see also Hourglass, PJ 2013;290:580) caused me to stop to read a small article in The Lancet, which described some new findings that the king had been infected with roundworms.

According to this article, following the excavation of Richard’s remains, samples of sediment were taken from the sacral area of his pelvis, and control samples from his skull and the soil outside the grave. Analysis involved micro-sieving the sediment, followed by light microscopy. The results showed the presence of multiple roundworm eggs (Ascaris lumbricoides) in the sacral sample where the intestines would have been during the king’s life.

The control sample from the skull was negative for parasite eggs and the control sample from outside the grave showed only tiny amounts of parasite egg contamination in the soil. Roundworm is spread by faecal contamination of food with dirty hands or use of faeces as a crop fertiliser.

No other species of intestinal parasite was found in any of the three samples. This is perhaps surprising given that past research into human parasites in Britain has shown several species to have been present before the medieval period (Richard III ruled England from 1483 to 1485), including whipworm, beef or pork tapeworm, fish tapeworm and liver fluke as well as roundworm.

The nobility would have been expected to eat meat and fish regularly, so the lack of tapeworm eggs in this sediment might suggest that the king ate his food thoroughly cooked, so preventing the transmission of these parasites.

Have your say

For commenting, please login or register as a user and agree to our Community Guidelines. You will be re-directed back to this page where you will have the ability to comment.

  • Print
  • Share
  • Comment
  • Save
  • Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF

From: Beyond pharmacy blog

Take a look here for thoughts and musings beyond the pharmacy realm

Newsletter Sign-up

Want to keep up with the latest news, comment and CPD articles in pharmacy and science? Subscribe to our free alerts.