Saturday, March 25

55,000-year-old Viking poop gives us a clue to a parasite | Digital Trends Spanish

An interesting study from the University of Copenhagen and the Wellcome Sanger Institute (UK) have carried out the largest and most in-depth genetic analysis of one of the oldest parasites found in humans: the whipworm, all from the poop of the vikings. The report was published in the journal Nature Communications.

The study suggests that humans and the parasite have developed a delicate interaction over thousands of years, whereby the parasite tries to stay “under the radar” so as not to be repelled, allowing it more time to infect new people. From other studies, the whipworm is known to stimulate the human immune system and gut microbiome, to the mutual benefit of both host and parasite.

Although the whipworm (Trichuris trichiura) is now rare in industrialized countries, most often causing only minor problems among healthy individuals, the parasite is estimated to affect 500 million people in developing countries.

“In people who are malnourished or have impaired immune systems, whipworm can lead to serious illness. Our mapping of the whipworm and its genetic development facilitates the design of more effective antiparasitic drugs that can be used to prevent the spread of this parasite in the poorest regions of the world,” says Professor Christian Kapel from the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at the UCPH.

The scientists also explained the way to get to this whipworm:

“We have known for a long time that we could detect up to 9,000-year-old parasite eggs under a microscope. Lucky for us, the eggs are designed to survive in the ground for long periods of time. Under optimal conditions, even the genetic material of the parasite can be preserved extremely well. And some of the oldest eggs that we’ve extracted any DNA from are 5,000 years old. It has been quite surprising to fully map the genome of well-preserved 1000-year-old whipworm eggs in this new study,” explains Christian Kapel.

Among other things, the researchers collected stool samples with whipworm eggs from Viking settlements in Denmark, Latvia and the Netherlands. The ancient genetic samples were compared with contemporary samples of people with whipworms from many countries in Africa, Central America, Asia and Europe.

The United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that between 604 and 795 million people are infected with trichuriasis worldwide.

Publisher Recommendations