New study reveals Richard III suffered from roundworm infection

Posted by pt91 at Sep 04, 2013 10:20 AM |
Archaeologists from the Search for Richard III have assisted in new analysis of the remains
New study reveals Richard III suffered from roundworm infection

A microscope image of a roundworm egg. Copyright: Piers Mitchell

Our archaeologists have worked with scientists from the University of Cambridge to uncover more details of Richard III's health at the time of his death.

Researchers used a powerful microscope to examine soil samples taken from the skeleton’s pelvis and skull.The team discovered roundworm eggs in a soil sample taken from the pelvis area of the skeleton, where the intestines would have been situated. The roundworm eggs found suggest that he suffered the infection during his life, rather than from becoming contaminated after his burial.

Roundworms are parasitic nematodes, which infect humans when people ingest their eggs via contaminated food, water, or soil.  Once eaten, the eggs hatch into larvae, which migrate through the tissues of the body to the lungs where they mature. They then crawl up the airways to the throat to be swallowed back into the intestines, where they can grow into adults around a foot long.

Roundworm infection is thought to be one of the commonest health conditions in the world, affecting up to a quarter of all people globally, although it is rare in the UK today.

  • The Dig for Richard III was led by the University of Leicester, working with Leicester City Council and in association with the Richard III Society.  The originator of the Search project was Philippa Langley of the Richard III Society.
  • Information on the dig, including podcasts and video, can be found on our Richard III website.