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Recently Found Remains of Richard III Reveal Case of Roundworm



September 14th, 2013 by in History with 221 Views

Back in February, the remains of Richard III were found in Leicester, England. When Richard III died in 1845, his remains were buried without any special ceremony. Due to this, the location of his remains eventually became unknown and would remain that way for over five hundred years. In 2012, radar was able to detect a skeleton that was buried underneath a car park in Leicester. In February, mitochondrial DNA from the skeleton was compared to descendants of Richard III, resulting in his positive identification.

Uncovering Richard III did not stop with the removal of his remains. Soil samples were taken from the area where his skeleton was found. Scientists found roundworm eggs in the soil. Roundworms were much more common in the middle ages and are mostly found in tropical countries today. These parasites spread from fecal contamination.

The soil that was tested was divided into regions. The first region tested was the soil around where his pelvis was located. Then they tested the soil around his skull. The skull area did not contain roundworms, nor did the soil surrounding his remains contains roundworms; though all of the soil tested around his pelvis and the rest of the body were found to contain roundworm eggs.

This allowed the scientists to conclude that Richard III must have had roundworms. Since the only roundworm eggs found were located in the same area as where his intestines would have been and not in any of the surrounding soil, it is unlikely that there was any contamination.

Fecal Contamination Spreads Roundworms

Fecal contamination was the number one way that roundworms were spread and in the middle ages, there was plenty of human waste to go around. People would often discard their waste from their windows and farmers would often use it when making fertilizer. The roundworms feed off of their host in order to stay alive. For those with a poor diet, this can lead to malnutrition and death.

Since Richard III most likely had a nutritious diet, he may not have noticed that he had roundworms. In fact, the World Health Organization suggests that as much as a quarter of the world’s population has roundworms, with lower rates in developing nations and higher rates in tropical regions.

In addition to roundworms, people that lived during the middle ages often had to deal with other parasites as well. These parasites were found in meat and fish. After thoroughly testing the soil of Richard III’s remains, scientists were unable to find any other parasites other than the roundworms.

This further suggests that Richard III had a healthy diet and his cooks were able to prepare food that did not contain other parasites. With a healthy diet, a user may never know that they have roundworms, other than experiencing the occasional dry cough, as was likely the case of Richard III. The discovery of parasitic roundworms in the remains of Richard III was not shocking to scientists. If anything, it helps build the case for the proper identification of Richard III, combined with the matching of DNA to distant relatives.

  • Jessica

    This was a really interesting article! Thanks for sharing. I’m glad that they were able to find the remains of Richard III after all these years!

  • Joseph John

    Interesting article. thanks for sharing this information…

  • liz soliven

    from 1845 to 2012 now that’s too long cant believe they still found roundworms after all these years?

  • Sakil Hossen

    An informative article and I enjoyed learning every educative views pretty much!! I think it’s a great discovery for Richard III and hopefully a good ending result will be out in the end.