Wednesday, November 26, 2014 Headlines & Global News

King Richard III Suffered Roundworm Infection, But Must Have Cooked His Food Properly To Avoid Other Parasites (PHOTO)

By Rebekah Marcarelli r.marcarelli@hngn.com | Sep 04, 2013 11:39 AM EDT

"(A) Skeleton of Richard III at excavation, with sampling locations marked. S=sacral sample. C1=skull control sample. C2=control sample from outside grave. (B) Decorticated roundworm egg (Ascaris lumb
"(A) Skeleton of Richard III at excavation, with sampling locations marked. S=sacral sample. C1=skull control sample. C2=control sample from outside grave. (B) Decorticated roundworm egg (Ascaris lumbricoides) from sacral sample of Richard III," Lancet (Photo : Lancet)

Researchers found signs of a roundworm infection in the "intestines" of King Richard III's recently exhumed body.

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King Richard III is one of England's most famous medieval kings, thanks to Shakespeare's villainous rendition of his life, a Lancet press release reported.

A powerful microscope was used to examine soil samples taken from the skull and pelvic area of the skeleton. The researchers noticed centuries-old roundworm eggs which are believed to have been from an original parasitic infection in the King's intestines.

The team believes the worms were part of an infection instead of a post-mortem contamination because eggs were not found around the skull or in the soil surrounding the body.

"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 the press release.

Roundworms usually enter the body through contaminated feces, they move through the body until they reach the lungs. The parasites then mature until they are old enough to crawl into the throat where they are swallowed. Once in the stomach and intestines the nasty critters can grow to up to 12 inches long. The worms are believed to infect at least a quarter of the human population globally.

"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," Dr. Piers Mitchell, of the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, said.

"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," he said. 

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