Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Inspector Norse

2500-year-old Viking poo sheds light on human's relationship with the whipworm parasite and possibly how to control infection

06 October 2022

Inspector Norse

Leaving Denmark for new lands, many Vikings had hope in their hearts and parasites in their guts. Researchers find the eggs of whipworm (Trichuris trichiura) inside 2500-year-old Viking poo, using their findings, and droppings, to follow the spread of the plucky parasite around the world and through history. Inspecting genomes from samples found in latrines and cesspits in different countries and from different times, they sketch a timeline for how whipworm have changed. The team believe this parasite maintained a beneficial relationship with the human gut microbiome for centuries, enabling its stealthy spread. Comparing ancient and modern genomes, the team search for clues to controlling the spread of whipworm. Today they infect around 500 million people every year, often causing trichuriasis, a serious disease in those with weakened immune systems.

Written by John Ankers

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