Roundworms ... Of Kings and Worms or How Kings, Commoners, and Cats Are the Same Food

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King Richard III remains were recently discovered in Leicester, England, in 2012. While examining his remains, researchers discovered roundworm eggs. They sought to determine if he had been infected with the parasitic roundworms. Most of the roundworm eggs (15) were found in the coffin at the pelvic area of the king's remains while only one egg was found in soil surrounding the grave. The researchers found no other evidence for other parasites and concluded the evidence strongly supports the conclusion that King Richard III suffered from a roundworm parasitic infection.

Roundworms, also known as nematodes, are a common term for parasites that comprise the phylum Nematoda that contain mainly free-living species and are located everywhere on earth. Roundworms are not ringworm, which is a fungal infection. Researchers estimate there may be as many as 500,000 species, but only about 60 species infect man and animals as parasites. The most commonly identified parasites that use us and some animals as food for survival, multiplication, and spread (transmission to others) are termed ascariasis, trichuriasis, hookworm, enterobiasis, strongyloidiasis, filariasis, and trichinosis. Each nematode has a life cycle that can be complex. Many have only part of their cycle completed in humans and animals.

Individuals infected with roundworm parasites may show symptoms of intestinal invasion (for example, abdominal pain, diarrhea) or lung symptoms (cough, blood-tinged sputum, shortness of breath, asthma, fever) from migrating parasites that invade the lungs, while others may show specific symptoms of muscle pains, abscesses, lymphedema and even "worms" visible in the patient's eye!

Drugs (anthelmintic agents) are used to treat most infected patients and animals. Specific agents are used according to the species of infecting roundworm. Diagnosis is usually accomplished by identification of the species of infecting roundworm. This typically involves identification of the characteristic parasite eggs, usually found in the patient's feces. However, some can also be identified by their appearance in tissue biopsies, blood smears, or by immunological methods that are specific for individual types of roundworms.

Good hygiene, sanitation, and avoidance of certain arthropod bites (for example, black flies) are the best ways to avoid roundworm infections. In the 14th century, kings, commoners, and cats (and other animals) all had poor hygiene and sanitation that made them all susceptible to roundworm infection. Most roundworms don't readily distinguish between kings or commoners. Alas, like poor King Richard III, but for good hygiene, sanitation, screen doors, and bug repellent, go you or me!

REFERENCE:

Hökelek, Murat. "Nematode Infections." Medscape.com. Dec. 5, 2011. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/224011-overview>.


Last Editorial Review: 9/11/2013 7:38:00 PM