Sunday, 17 August 2014

Oldest ever parasite egg found

The discovery of a schistosomiasis parasite egg in a 6200-year-old grave could provide the first evidence that agricultural irrigation systems in the Middle East contributed to disease burden.
The egg has been found in a grave at a prehistoric town by the Euphrates river in Syria. The egg was found in the pelvic area of the burial where the intestines and bladder would have been during life.
Schistosomiasis is a disease caused by several species of flatworm parasites that live in the blood vessels of the bladder and intestines. The parasite spends part of its life cycle in snails that live in warm fresh water, before leaving the snail to burrow through the skin of people wading or swimming in the water. Today it is estimated that over 200 million people around the world are infected.
The research suggests that the parasite may have been spread by the introduction of crop irrigation in ancient Mesopotamia, the region along the Tigris-Euphrates river system that covers parts of modern-day Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Syria, and Turkey. Irrigation systems were starting to be introduced in Mesopotamia around 7,500 years ago. It is possible that these irrigation systems, that distributed water to crops, may have triggered the beginning of the disease burden of schistosomiasis some 6,000 years ago.
The finding also means that the parasite infected humans there at least a thousand years earlier than previously thought.
The finding has been published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases. The paper is titled “Prehistoric schistosomiasis parasite found in the Middle East.”

Posted by Tim Sandle