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Early evidence for travel with infectious diseases along the Silk Road: Intestinal parasites from 2000 year-old personal hygiene sticks in a latrine at Xuanquanzhi Relay Station in China

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Abstract

The Silk Road has often been blamed for the spread of infectious diseases in the past between East Asia, the Middle East and Europe. While such a hypothesis seems plausible, there is actually very little concrete evidence to prove that diseases were transmitted by early travellers moving along its various branches. The aim of this study is to look for ancient parasite eggs on personal hygiene sticks in a latrine at a large relay station on the Silk Road at Xuanquanzhi (111 BCE–CE 109), at the eastern margin of the Tarim Basin in north-western China. We isolated eggs of four species of parasitic intestinal worms: Chinese liver fluke (Clonorchis sinensis), Taenia sp. tapeworm (likely Taenia asiatica, Taenia solium or Taenia saginata), roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides) and whipworm (Trichuris trichiura). The Chinese liver fluke requires wet marshy areas to sustain its life cycle and could not have been endemic to this arid region. The presence of this species suggests that people from well-watered areas of eastern or southern China travelled with their parasites to this relay station along the Silk Road, either for trade or on government business. This appears to be the earliest archaeological evidence for travel with infectious diseases along the Silk Road.
Early evidence for travel with infectious diseases along the Silk Road:
intestinal parasites from 2,000 year old personal hygiene sticks in a
latrine at Xuanquanzhi relay station in China.
Reference: Yeh, H.-Y., Mao, R., Wang, H., Qi, W., Mitchell, P.D. (2016) Early
evidence for travel with infectious diseases along the Silk Road: intestinal
parasites from 2,000 year old personal hygiene sticks in a latrine at
Xuanquanzhi relay station in China.Journal Archaeological Science: Reports
doi: 10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.05.010.
Text in the form accepted by the journal prior to type setting.
Abstract
The Silk Road has often been blamed for the spread of infectious diseases in the past
between East Asia, the Middle East and Europe. While such a hypothesis seems
plausible, there is actually very little concrete evidence to prove that diseases were
transmitted by early travellers moving along its various branches. The aim of this
study is to look for ancient parasite eggs on personal hygiene sticks in a latrine at a
large relay station on the Silk Road at Xuanquanzhi (111 BC-AD 109), at the eastern
margin of the Taklamakan Desert in north-western China. We isolated eggs of four
species of parasitic intestinal worms: Chinese liver fluke (Clonorchis sinensis),
Taenia sp. tapeworm (likely Taenia asiatica, T. solium or T. saginata), roundworm
(Ascaris lumbricoides) and whipworm (Trichuris trichiura). The Chinese liver fluke
requires wet marshy areas to sustain its life cycle and could not have been endemic to
this arid region. The presence of this species suggests that people from well-watered
areas of eastern or southern China travelled with their parasites to this relay station
along the Silk Road, either for trade or on government business. This appears to be
the earliest archaeological evidence for travel with infectious diseases along the Silk
Road.
Background
1.1 Parasites as Markers of Migration with Diseases
It is well known that people in the past travelled long distances for trade,
exploration, political delegations, military campaigns, or just to find a new place to
live. Those who happened to be infected with diseases at the time would have carried
those organisms with them. The Silk Road has often been blamed for the spread of
infectious diseases such as bubonic plague, leprosy and anthrax by travellers between
East Asia, the Middle East and Europe (Monot et al. 2009; Schmid et al., 2015;
Simonson et al. 2009). However, such theories are generally based upon either the
modern distribution of disease strains, or archaeological samples from Europe that
match modern East Asian strains (Morelli et al., 2010; Wagner et al., 2014). There is
very little firm archeological evidence to prove that early travellers moving along the
various branches of the Silk Road did spread diseases. These diseases could
potentially have reached Europe from East Asia via other routes, such as through
India to the south or Mongolia and Russia to the north.
It is often very challenging to identify clear examples of the spread of ancient
disease with long distance travel. Intestinal parasites can be a useful approach to
investigate this, as some species are only endemic in a restricted geographic region
due to the nature of their life cycle and the intermediate hosts that may be required for
the parasite to mature into a form that can infect humans. Examples where such
parasites have successfully demonstrated migrations include the various routes taken
during prehistoric settlement of the Americas (Araújo et al. 2008), crusaders
travelling from medieval Europe to the Middle East (Mitchell et al., 2011), African
parasites in France around 1500 (Bouchet et al, 2002), and Chinese laborers moving
to California in the 1880s (Reinhard et al., 2008).
If we could find evidence for parasites at locations on the Silk Road well outside
their endemic area, we could prove for the first time that travellers along the Silk
Road really were responsible for the spread of infectious diseases along this route in
the past.
1.2 The Gansu Corridor and the Silk Road
Gansu Province in north-west China contains the Hexi Corridor, a 1000 km band
of territory stretching from the banks of the Yellow River at its south east to the Tarim
Basin at its north west, where it is dominated by Taklamakan Desert. The corridor is
bordered by the Gobi desert, the Qilian Mountains and the Beishan Mountains (Ma et
al., 2004). This corridor formed a section of the Silk Road, an ancient network of
thoroughfares extending 4,000 miles, interconnecting the ancient communities of East
Asia, Central Asia, Western Asia and the Near East. The Silk Road was used by
merchants, pilgrims, monks, soldiers and nomads to travel between China and the
Mediterranean Sea, so contributing to cultural exchange between ancient civilisations
(Liu, 2010; Boulnois and Mayhew, 2005; Hansen, 2012). The Silk Road came to
prominence during the Han Dynasty (202 BC AD 220). According to Sima Qian’s
biography of Dayuan in The Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji), Zhang Qian was
a Chinese envoy appointed by Emperor Wu of Han to the Western Regions (Xiyu),
around Xinjiang and Central Asia. Zhang Qian explored the sections of the Silk Road
through military missions (Boulnois, 2005).
1.3 The excavation of the Xuanquanzhi site and the Han dynasty
Xuanquanzhi relay station is a site that has been designated a Major Historical
and Cultural Site Protected at the National Level in China. It is located in the town of
Dunhuang, a key stopping point on the Silk Road within the Hexi Corridor (Fu, 2005;
Bonavia et al., 2004) (Fig. 1). According to documents and the archaeological
stratigraphy, the relay station was built in 111 BC and used as such until AD 109,
before being later transformed into a beacon tower during the Six Dynasties (AD 220
or 222–589) (He, 2000). The final syllable zhi ( ) in the name Xuanquanzhi
designates a site in charge of a horse-delivering post (Lien, 2015). The postal relay
system relied on horses as a means of communication between local governments and
the seats of the imperial court, such as Chang’an and Luoyang in the Central Plain of
China, both of which were major capitals during the Han Dynasty. The relay station
not only conveyed messages but also hosted visitors (He, 2000; Lien, 2015).
Between October 1990 and December 1992, the Gansu Institute of Cultural
Relics and Archaeology conducted a comprehensive excavation at Xuanquanzhi (Fig.
2). Many artifacts were excavated including bamboo and silk used for writing, bones
of livestock, linen fabrics, paper and stationery (He, 2000). These findings were
among the most important archaeological discoveries in China at the time.
2. Methods
The hygiene sticks were excavated from the latrine at the Xuanquanzhi site in
1992 (Fig. 3) and have been stored at the Gansu Institute of Cultural Relics and
Archaeology. These sticks were made of wood or bamboo wrapped with cotton cloth,
to be used as personal hygiene sticks for wiping the skin around the anus after passing
faeces into the toilet (Fig. 4). Hygiene sticks for wiping, sometimes also referred to as
bamboo slips, have been described in ancient Chinese texts and also found at
archaeological sites before (Gansu Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and
Archaeology, 1991; Wang, 2010). Seven sticks from Xuanquanzhi were found to have
preserved faeces adherent to the cloth. Faeces from 6 sticks was combined to make
one sample, while one stick with more faecal matter preserved comprised the second
sample. The dried faeces was disaggregated using distilled water, and the process was
repeated with a parallel sample using 0.5% trisodium phosphate in case one method
was more effective than the other (Anastasiou and Mitchell, 2013). After one hour of
disaggregation, the samples were fully suspended and were passed through
micro-sieves of mesh size 300µm and 160µm in order to separate parasite eggs from
the rest of the soil particles. Since the dimensions of the eggs of most intestinal worms
that parasitize humans in Asia range between 10µm and 150µm, sieving the samples
through micro-sieves will separate the eggs from soil sediment particles that are larger
than the size of the eggs (Yeh et al., in press). The fine particles that passed through
the sieves were concentrated by centrifugation and the supernatant removed.
Egg counts per gram of soil can be determined using a number of methods
(Reinhard et al., 1986). In our study we counted the number of eggs in 0.2-gram
sediment samples and multiplied the number of eggs observed by five. Doing this
avoided the need to use Lycopodium sp. spores and prevented potential bias resulting
from processing an aliquot of disaggregated fluid from a larger original sample, since
the eggs may not be uniformly distributed throughout the disaggregation fluid (Yeh et
al., 2015). Finally, the samples were mixed with glycerol, mounted on slides and
analysed with light microscopy. The identification of the parasite eggs was based on
their morphology, dimensions, colour and special characteristics, in accordance with
standard parasitological sources (Garcia, 2009; Gunn and Pitt, 2012).
3. Results
Samples from the hygiene sticks were positive for the eggs of whipworm (T.
trichiura), roundworm (A. lumbricoides), Taenia sp. tapeworm (compatible with T.
asiatica, T. solium or T. saginata), and Chinese liver fluke (C. sinensis) (Table 1).
Whipworm was identified by its lemon shape, brown colour, polar plugs and
dimensions. Roundworm was identified by its oval shape, brown colour, dimensions
and mammillated coat. Taenia sp. tapeworm was identified by its round shape, thick
wall with striations, brown colour, and dimensions. The sample collected from the
single latrine stick also contained one egg of Chinese liver fluke (C. sinensis) (Fig. 8a).
This was identified by the oval shape, a thick light-brown wall, its dimensions
(normal range 27µm to 35µm long and 12µm to 19µm wide), the operculum that
covers the anterior end with a conspicuous rim protruding from the side of the egg,
and a small knob or a little curved spine on the abopercular end (Garcia, 2009; Gunn
and Pitt, 2012). A modern example of a Chinese liver fluke egg is given as a
comparison (Figure 8b). While all four species of parasite were found in the samples
disaggregating using distilled water, only whipworm, roundworm and Taenia sp.
tapeworm were identified in the samples disaggregated in trisodium phosphate.
4. Discussion
4.1 Chinese Liver Fluke and Long Distance Travel
Perhaps the most significant finding from these surprisingly well-preserved
personal hygiene sticks is the presence of Chinese liver fluke (C. sinensis). This
species of flatworm has been endemic to the marshy and humid areas of south and
central China for thousands of years (Seo and Shin, 2015). A study undertaken on a
Han Dynastic mummy from Phoenix Hill in Hubei Province in central China revealed
the presence of C. sinenisis, Schistosoma japonicum, Taenia sp. and T. trichiura (Wei
et al., 1981). Similarly, coprolite samples from mummies of the Ming and Song
Dynasties found in East China contained the eggs of C. sinenisis, A. lumbricoides,
Fasciolopsis buski, and T. trichiura (Li, 1984). What is so important is the location
where the liver fluke was found.
Chinese liver fluke could not have been endemic at Dunhuang in the arid
north-west region of China, as the parasite requires a wet marshy environment for its
life cycle. The flukes mature in bile ducts of the liver and can produce up to 4,000
eggs per day for at least six months (Schmidt and Roberts, 2006). If an infected
person goes to the toilet in fresh water, these eggs gain entry to a suitable snail, which
acts as the intermediate host. The larval forms develop in the snail before a further
period of development in fresh water fish, which can then be eaten by humans.
Infection can lead to abdominal pain, diarrhoea, jaundice, and liver cancer (Qian et al.,
2015). According to a national survey of parasitic infection conducted in mainland
China in 1988-1992, the majority of people infected by Chinese liver fluke lived in
Guangdong Province, south China, with a prevalence of 1.82% (Yu et al., 1994). It
has been estimated that between 5 and 10 million people were infected with Chinese
liver fluke at the time of this survey, 5 million of whom were from Guangdong
Province (Liu, 2009).
The relay station is at least 1,500km away from any region where the parasite is
endemic today (Fig.1), and 2,000km from Guangdong Province where most cases are
found today. The presence of this parasite indicates the migration of people from a
well-watered area of China to this relay station, perhaps participating in trade along
the Silk Road, or on government business.
4.2 Sanitation, Hygiene and Health
Roundworm and whipworm are thought to have infected humans throughout our
evolution (Mitchell, 2013; Reinhard et al., 2013). They are both spread by the
contamination of food with human faeces, often through the use of faeces as a crop
fertiliser or during the preparation of meals with unwashed hands (Phuc et al., 2006;
Ziegelbauer et al., 2012). Adult roundworms are 20-30 cm long and live in the
intestines, while adult whipworms are 3-5 cm long. A light infection may not cause
any symptoms, but a heavy infection with these parasites can lead to malnutrition,
reduced intelligence and stunted growth in children (Halpenny et al., 2012; Ngui et al.,
2012).
According to the Book of Han (also known as the History of the Former Han),
human latrines in the Han Dynasty were sometimes used as a source of crop fertiliser
(Wu and Liu, 2013; Yi, 2005). The whipworm and roundworms eggs found on the
personal hygiene sticks suggests that visitors to the station had been eating food
contaminated by human faeces, providing insight into the efficacy of hygiene
practices in ancient China.
Interestingly the eggs of pinworm (Enterobius vermicularis) were not found on
the hygiene sticks. Since the eggs are laid at night on the skin outside the anus by the
adult worms, there was potential for us to find eggs on the hygiene sticks used to wipe
this area. Pinworm eggs have been found in a mummy dating from 202 BC- AD 220
(Han Dynasty) at Changsha in China, so we know the parasite was present in the
China at that time (Wei, 1973). Their absence in our samples may indicate that the
parasite was not present in those who used the sticks, or that the fragile eggs did not
survive well in this latrine environment.
4.3 Pig Viscera Consumption and Cooking Methods
We found several specimens of Taenia sp. tapeworm, and due to its geographic
location it may well represent the Asian tapeworm (Taenia asiatica), pork tapeworm
(T. solium) or beef tapeworm (T. saginata). Asian and pork tapeworm are spread by
eating raw or undercooked pork viscera, while beef tapeworm is spread by
undercooked beef. Humans are the only definitive host for T. asiatica (Ale et al., 2014;
Eom et al., 2009).
During the Han Dynasty, pigs were the predominant farm animal consumed,
with horses and cattle being largely used for transport and agriculture (Li, 1997; Yu,
2010). Written records indicate that the culture of raising pigs was introduced to the
region around Xuanquanzhi by the Chinese, in particular through the presence of the
military, since the northwestern region was not initially populated by Chinese (Wei,
2010). According to historical documents written on Han Dynasty bamboo slips, pigs
were raised in captivity in pigsties and not allowed to graze freely, since laws existed
to protect crops from being destroyed by grazing pigs (Hou, 2012). The excavation of
Mawangdui in central China included tombs of upper-class people of the Han
Dynasty, and there were many highly valuable artifacts that were foods made from
viscera such as liver, stomach, lungs and spleen, used as burial goods (Hunan
Provincial Museum, 1973; Hunan Provincial Museum, 1974). These findings suggest
that among people at the time, the consumption of viscera was common. In historical
documents such as the Book of Han, references to eating sliced liver, bacon, raw and
roasted meat, and viscera from dogs and pigs indicate their popularity amongst the
Chinese population at the time (Wu and Liu, 2013; Jang, 1995). Eating raw or
undercooked viscera of pigs would explain why we found eggs of Taenia sp.
tapeworm on the personal hygiene sticks at Xuanquanzhi relay station. The fondness
of ancient Chinese people for pork might suggest that Asian or pork tapeworm is the
more likely diagnosis than beef tapeworm.
5. Conclusion
The parasites recovered from the personal hygiene sticks found in the latrine of
the Xuanquanzhi relay station during the Han Dynasty provide important information
concerning the hygiene conditions, food consumption and migration patterns of
people living in ancient China. Of particular note, the presence of Chinese liver fluke
demonstrates the long distance migration of people from a well-watered area of
southern or eastern China to this relay station on the Silk Road, perhaps associated
with trade or government business. Our findings lay support to previous hypotheses
suggesting that travel along the Silk Road was responsible for the spread of infectious
diseases between East Asia, the Middle East and Europe 2,000 years ago.
Acknowledgments:
This work is funded by the national support program for science and technology of
the Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China
(2013BAK08B02) and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences innovation projects.
We are also grateful to the late Dr. Pochan Chen at the Department of Anthropology,
National Taiwan University. Without his help this project would not have been
possible.
List of Figures
Figure 1. Map of China showing Dunhuang, in Gansu province. The shaded yellow
areas are the regions where Chinese liver fluke is endemic in modern times.
Figure 2. Aerial photo of the Xuanquanzhi excavation at Dunhuang.
Figure 3. Plan of the Xuanquanzhi relay station. Location of the latrine is marked by
the red star.
Figure 4. One of the personal hygiene sticks found in the latrine at the Xuanquanzhi
site. The stick is wrapped with cotton at one end and there are traces of brown
material, human faeces.
Figure 5. Trichuris trichiura egg (whipworm) with polar plugs at each end.
Dimensions: 51x28 µm. Scale: black bar indicates 20 µm
Figure 6. Ascaris lumbricoides egg (roundworm) with mammillated surface coat.
Dimensions: 62x47 µm. Scale: black bar indicates 20 µm
Figure 7. Taenia sp. egg (likely T. asiatica, T. solium or T. saginata). Dimensions:
31x30 µm. Scale: black bar indicates 20 µm
Figure 8a. Clonorchis sinensis egg (Chinese liver fluke). Operculum located at
right hand end of egg, the adjacent rim, and small nob at the abopercular end of the
egg (to the left). Dimensions: 29x16 µm. Scale: black bar indicates 20 µm. Figure 8b.
Example of modern Chinese liver fluke egg as comparison.
List of Tables
Table 1: Parasite egg concentrations on the latrine sticks.
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... When analyzed, the eggs of whipworm (Fig. 2), roundworm, Taenia sp. tapeworm (Fig. 3), and Chinese liver fluke were identified [13]. A study carried out on a female mummy from the Mawangtui tomb in Changsha, Han Dynasty (206/202 BCE-CE 220), found oriental schistosomiasis (Schistosoma japonicum), whipworm , and pinworm (Enterobius vermicularis) eggs in the fecal material extracted from the intestines [14]. ...
... This suggests that a traveller from the well-watered areas of eastern or southern China contracted the parasite there, and travelled a huge distance along the Silk Road before using the latrine at Xuanquanzhi relay station. This provides the first archaeological evidence from along the Silk Road to show that ancient travellers were moving with their infectious diseases [13]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Whilst archaeological evidence for many aspects of life in ancient China is well studied, there has been much less interest in ancient infectious diseases, such as intestinal parasites in past Chinese populations. Here, we bring to- gether evidence from mummies, ancient latrines, and pelvic soil from burials, dating from the Neolithic Period to the Qing Dynasty, in order to better understand the health of the past inhabitants of China and the diseases endemic in the region. Seven species of intestinal parasite have been identified, namely roundworm, whipworm, Chinese liver fluke, oriental schistosome, pinworm, Taenia sp. tapeworm, and the intestinal fluke Fasciolopsis buski. It was found that in the past, roundworm, whipworm, and Chinese liver fluke appear to have been much more common than the other species. While roundworm and whipworm remained common into the late 20th century, Chinese liver fluke seems to have undergone a marked decline in its prevalence over time. The iconic transport route known as the Silk Road has been shown to have acted as a vector for the transmission of ancient diseases, highlighted by the discovery of Chinese liver fluke in a 2,000 year-old relay station in northwest China, 1,500 km outside its endemic range.
... Taenia sp. has been geographically and chronologically widespread since the Neolithic period. Embryophores of this parasite have been found in European (Harter, 2003;Harter-Lailheugue et al., 2005), the Middle East (Cahill et al., 1991;Harter, 2003;Mitchell and Tepper, 2007;Langgut, 2022), Asian (Yeh et al., 2016;Zhan et al., 2020), African (Harter, 2003;Harter et al., 2003;Bruschi et al., 2006;Le Bailly et al., 2010 e.g.), and American (Horne and Tuck, 1996;Beltrame et al., 2010) archaeological sites, over time periods ranging from 10,000 B.P. to the present (Sianto et al., 2009). The oldest embryophores of Taenia sp. were identified in a skeleton from Cyprus, dated between 8300-and 7000-years B.C. (Harter-Lailheugue et al., 2005). ...
Article
Objective This study aims to (i) analyse whether speleothems may contain fossil parasitic worm eggs and, if so, (ii) identify the pathogens involved, and (iii) place them in geological, palaeontological, and chronological contexts to know the zoonoses that could affect human and animal populations during the Middle Pleistocene. Materials A sample of calcite dated to the beginning of MIS 9 and MIS 8 from the Bàsura cave (Liguria, Italy) was analysed. Methods The chemical protocol applied is characterised using hydrochloric acid, the reduction of hydrofluoric acid application time, and by the absence of the use of base, dense liquor or acetolysis. Results An embryophore of a taeniid was recovered. Conclusions Endoparasitic worm eggs can be found in speleothems. A taeniid embryophore was found in a calcite level dated to MIS 9. Zoonoses related to the Taeniidae family existed 300,000 years ago in the northern Mediterranean region and may have affected Middle Pleistocene predators, carnivores, or humans. Speleothems are good tools for paleoparasitological studies. Significance This is the oldest taeniid recovered and identified. Limitations A more precise determination of the genus of this taeniid is not possible in the absence of more precise palaeontological data. Suggestions for further research An application of this approach to other Pleistocene speleothems could broaden the spectrum of parasites and their zoonoses over remote Pleistocene periods.
... The populations are at least partially exogenous to each other and carry the potential for differential ancestral exposure to infectious diseases. An example of interpopulation interaction includes long-distance trade along the Silk Roads that connected civilizations of Europe and Asia for centuries, functioning as a route of cultural and genetic exchange alongside the transmission of infectious diseases as early as 2,000 years ago (Yeh et al. 2016). ...
Article
The processes of human mobility have been well demonstrated to influence the spread of infectious disease globally in the present and the past. However, to date, paleoepidemiological research has focused more on factors of residential mobility and population density as drivers for epidemiological shifts in prehistoric infectious disease patterns. A strong body of epidemiological literature exists for the dynamics of infectious disease spread through networks of mobility and interaction. We review the epidemiological theory of infectious disease spread and propose frameworks for application of this theory to bioarchaeology. We outline problems with current definitions of prehistoric mobility and propose a framework shift with focus on population interactions as nodes for disease transmission. To conceptualize this new framework, we produced a theoretical model that considers the interplay between climate suitability, population density, residential mobility, and human interaction levels to influence infectious disease patterns in prehistoric assemblages. We then tested observable effects of this model in paleoepidemiological data from Asia (n = 343). Relative risk ratio analysis and correlations were used to test the impact of population interaction, residential mobility, population density, climate, and subsistence on the prevalence and diversity of infectious diseases. Our statistical results showed higher levels of population interaction led to significantly higher prevalence of infectious disease in sedentary populations and a significant increase in pathogen diversity in mobile populations. We recommend that population interaction be included as an important component of infectious disease analysis of prehistoric population health alongside other biosocial factors, such as sedentism and population density. Daar is goed gedemonstreer dat die prosesse van menslike mobiliteit die verspreiding van aansteeklike siektes wêreldwyd in die hede en in die verlede beïnvloed. Maar tot op hede het paleo-epidemiologiese navorsing egter meer gefokus op faktore van residensiële mobiliteit en bevolkingsdigtheid as dryfvere vir epidemiologiese verskuiwings in die prehistoriese infeksiesiektepatrone. Sterk epidemiologiese literatuur bestaan vir die dinamika van aansteeklike siektes wat versprei word deur netwerke van mobiliteit en interaksie. Ons ondersoek die epidemiologiese teorie van die verspreiding van aansteeklike siektes en stel raamwerke voor vir die toepassing van hierdie teorie op die bioargeologie. Ons skets probleme met huidige definisies van prehistoriese mobiliteit en stel ‘n raamwerk verskuiwing voor met die fokus op bevolkings-interaksies as nodusse vir oordrag van siektes. Om hierdie nuwe raamwerk te konseptualiseer, het ons ‘n teoretiese model vervaardig wat die wisselwerking tussen klimaatsgeskiktheid, bevolkingsdigtheid, residensiële mobiliteit en menslike interaksievlakke oorweeg om die infeksiesiektepatrone in prehistoriese samestellings te beïnvloed. Daarna het ons die waarneembare effekte van hierdie model getoets in paleo-epidemiologiese data uit Asië (n = 343). Relatiewe risiko-verhoudingsanalise en korrelasies is gebruik om die impak van bevolkings-interaksie, residensiële mobiliteit, bevolkingsdigtheid, klimaat en bestaan op die voorkoms en diversiteit van aansteeklike siektes te toets. Ons statistiese resultate het gedemonstreer dat hoër vlakke van bevolkings-interaksie gelei het tot aansienlik hoër voorkoms van aansteeklike siektes in sittende bevolkings en ‘n beduidende toename in patogeen diversiteit in mobiele bevolkings. Ons beveel aan dat bevolkings-interaksie ingesluit word as ‘n belangrike komponent van die aantstekingsiekte-ontleding van die prehistoriese bevolkingsgesondheid, tesame met ander biososiale faktore soos sedentisme en bevolkingsdigtheid.
... The populations are at least partially exogenous to each other and carry the potential for differential ancestral exposure to infectious diseases. An example of interpopulation interaction includes long-distance trade along the Silk Roads that connected civilizations of Europe and Asia for centuries, functioning as a route of cultural and genetic exchange alongside the transmission of infectious diseases as early as 2,000 years ago (Yeh et al. 2016). ...
Article
Full-text available
The processes of human mobility have been well demonstrated to influence the spread of infectious disease globally in the present and the past. However, to date, paleoepidemiological research has focused more on factors of residential mobility and population density as drivers for epidemiological shifts in prehistoric infectious disease patterns. A strong body of epidemiological literature exists for the dynamics of infectious disease spread through networks of mobility and interaction. We review the epidemiological theory of infectious disease spread and propose frameworks for application of this theory to bioarchaeology. We outline problems with current definitions of prehistoric mobility and propose a framework shift with focus on population interactions as nodes for disease transmission. To conceptualize this new framework, we produced a theoretical model that considers the interplay between climate suitability, population density, residential mobility, and human interaction levels to influence infectious disease patterns in prehistoric assemblages. We then tested observable effects of this model in paleoepidemiological data from Asia (n = 343). Relative risk ratio analysis and correlations were used to test the impact of population interaction, residential mobility, population density, climate, and subsistence on the prevalence and diversity of infectious diseases. Our statistical results showed higher levels of population interaction led to significantly higher prevalence of infectious disease in sedentary populations and a significant increase in pathogen diversity in mobile populations. We recommend that population interaction be included as an important component of infectious disease analysis of prehistoric population health alongside other biosocial factors, such as sedentism and population density. Daar is goed gedemonstreer dat die prosesse van menslike mobiliteit die verspreiding van aansteeklike siektes wêreldwyd in die hede en in die verlede beïnvloed. Maar tot op hede het paleo-epidemiologiese navorsing egter meer gefokus op faktore van residensiële mobiliteit en bevolkingsdigtheid as dryfvere vir epidemiologiese verskuiwings in die prehistoriese infeksiesiektepatrone. Sterk epidemiologiese literatuur bestaan vir die dinamika van aansteeklike siektes wat versprei word deur netwerke van mobiliteit en interaksie. Ons ondersoek die epidemiologiese teorie van die verspreiding van aansteeklike siektes en stel raamwerke voor vir die toepassing van hierdie teorie op die bio-argeologie. Ons skets probleme met huidige definisies van prehistoriese mobiliteit en stel ‘n raamwerk verskuiwing voor met die fokus op bevolkings-interaksies as nodusse vir oordrag van siektes. Om hierdie nuwe raamwerk te konseptualiseer, het ons ‘n teoretiese model vervaardig wat die wisselwerking tussen klimaatsgeskiktheid, bevolkingsdigtheid, residensiële mobiliteit en menslike interaksievlakke oorweeg om die infeksiesiektepatrone in prehistoriese samestellings te beïnvloed. Daarna het ons die waarneembare effekte van hierdie model getoets in paleo-epidemiologiese data uit Asië (n = 343). Relatiewe risiko-verhoudingsanalise en korrelasies is gebruik om die impak van bevolkings-interaksie, residensiële mobiliteit, bevolkingsdigtheid, klimaat en bestaan op die voorkoms en diversiteit van aansteeklike siektes te toets. Ons statistiese resultate het gedemonstreer dat hoër vlakke van bevolkings-interaksie gelei het tot aansienlik hoër voorkoms van aansteeklike siektes in sittende bevolkings en ‘n beduidende toename in patogeen diversiteit in mobiele bevolkings. Ons beveel aan dat bevolkings-interaksie ingesluit word as ‘n belangrike komponent van die aantstekingsiekte-ontleding van die prehistoriese bevolkingsgesondheid, tesame met ander biososiale faktore soos sedentisme en bevolkingsdigtheid.
... Eggs of the Opisthorchiidae family are not very often found in archaeological materials like soil samples taken from the sacrum surface, coprolites or occupation layers of settlements. First, the fecundity of trematodes of the Opisthorchiidae family is relatively low, compared with the fecundity of tapeworms (Diphyllobothrium sp, Taenia sp.) and threadworms (Ascaris lumbricoides or Trichuris trichiura) often found in archaeological materials (Serdyukov, 1979;Bundy and Cooper, 1989;Vozianova, 2000). Second, the finding the eggs of Opisthorchis felineus depends on whether certain people eat raw or half-raw fish (Be'er, 2005). ...
Article
This article shows the potential of reconstruction of human migrations based on archaeoparasitological data. On the example of the territory of Western Siberia and based on the characteristics of the biology and ecology of the intermediate hosts of Opisthorchis felineus, it was determined, if we want to reconstruct migrations related to the territory of Siberia in antiquity, we can be fairly confident in using only natural factors. They are independent of anthropogenic influence and determine favorable or unfavorable conditions for the functioning of the focus of Opisthorchis felineus. In particular, the occurrence of mollusks as intermediate hosts, the average monthly water temperature in summer, and the occurrence of permafrost can be considered as the main factors that can be used to reconstruct human migrations in antiquity. Collectively, our findings suggest that the presence or absence of Opisthorchis felineus eggs in the samples gathered at Western Siberian archaeological sites can be a basis for the reconstruction of migrations in earlier times. This approach can be applied to other foci of Opisthorchis felineus situated in the European part of Eurasia and of territories endemic for other Opisthorchidae (Clonorchis sinensis, Opisthorchis viverrini) situated in of Eurasia. This likelihood is contingent on accumulating more biological materials, such as mapping zones, with or without intermediate hosts; the occurrence of infection of the final hosts; environmental and climatic conditions; and, even more important, archaeoparasitological data.
... This may simultaneously be beneficial to the host as has been widely demonstrated for many human host-parasite relationships (reviewed in [29]). It is of course most commonly found when the parasite and host populations have long co-inhabited a geographic area, as have Ov and Isaan-Lao people, who along with all Tai-Kadai peoples have occupied the Mekong and adjacent regions for at least a millennium, having spread to Southeast Asia from Southern China [30,31] where archeological evidence suggests the human-liver fluke relationship is at least this old (see [32,33]). The evidence for an immune-modulation role in this Ov-human host relationship is described in detail by us elsewhere [12]. ...
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High liver fluke infection rates persist in Northeastern Thailand, despite decades of public health interventions. Multiple complex socio-cultural and ecological factors associated with local communities’ “wetland livelihoods” underly their apparent preference for raw cyprinid fish consumption and subsequent infection. The lack of appreciation of this complexity, including dismissal of different worldviews and health perceptions between rural communities and researchers and practitioners implementing interventions, have resulted in relatively limited successes in sustainably altering traditional dietary habits to interrupt transmission. This is further complicated by ongoing, possibly accelerating socio-economic development and transition from subsistence to cash economy with risk pattern changes and associated health problems. Raw fish consumption behavior is a remnant of traditional Isaan practices and a disappearing landmark possibly associated with a disrupted sense of cultural coherence/identity. Although a “risky” behavior (i.e. from a biomedical perspective), raw fish consumption is associated with cultural identity and social capital contributing to communities’ cohesiveness as well as individual resilience and psychosocial health. In this paper we review recent evidence illustrating the significance of socio-cultural and ecological factors influencing infection and disease risk. We show that although significant improvements have been achieved towards liver fluke infection control, several key barriers and challenges remain including lack of authentic engagement with local communities to understand the local culture and their broader health perceptions and well-being concerns. We then describe an integrative research rationale based on transdisciplinarity pointing to the need 1) to enhance collaborative research and education at the interface between health and social sciences, 2) to develop protocols for community engagement at all levels drawing on community participatory approaches in which the community, and local knowledge is at least as equally valued to outside experts, and 3) the needs to develop robust and integrative processes and outcomes for monitoring and evaluation tools. Addressing these needs, we argue, will help more effectively design liver fluke and CCA control interventions that are better aligned with human health development needs and more likely to prove sustainable.
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Here, we investigate the presence of parasitic infections in Neolithic peoples from Taiwan to provide insight into the health and cultural development of these populations. Analysis was conducted on 27 soil samples collected from the pelvic region of human skeletal remains, along with control samples taken from the skulls and feet excavated from the Wushantou site in southwest Taiwan. The samples were disaggregated, passed through micro-sieves, and visualized using light microscopy. Analysis revealed the presence of roundworm eggs (Ascaris lumbricoides) within the remains of one individual. The control samples were negative for parasites, suggesting a true infection in this individual and not later environmental contamination of the soil. This is the first discovery of ancient parasite eggs in prehistoric Taiwan. The low apparent prevalence of parasites in this population is discussed in the context of the environment during this time and the consequences of regional climate on preservation of parasite eggs.
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Standard techniques for the analysis of prehistoric soils have not been devised. It is unlikely that any single technique is applicable to all types of fecal remains. This is due to various environmental conditions which effect the preservation of helminth ova. In general, gravitational sedimentation is a useful technique for isolating helminth eggs and larvae from coprolites. Latrine soils pose greater problems for helminthological examination. Although various clinical techniques have been successfully utilized in soil study, it is important to remember that some latrine soils have not yielded helminth eggs to any clinical technique. Consequently the paleoparasitologist must be ready to innovate new techniques rather than depend on clinical techniques. Beyond the problems of technique, what research done with identification of parasites is very encouraging. At this point it appears that the measurement and morphological characteristics used to identify modern parasites can also be applied to paleoparasites. The trends of paleoparasitological research today emphasize experimentation and quantification as well as precise identification. In the future, these trends will lead to a more rigorous study of parasites in prehistory.
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On Aug 21, 1875, James McConnell published in The Lancet his findings from a post-mortem examination of a 20-year-old Chinese man-undertaken at the Medical College Hospital in Calcutta, India-in whom he found Clonorchis sinensis in the bile ducts. Now, exactly 140 years later, we have a sound understanding of the lifecycle of this liver fluke, including key clinical, diagnostic, and epidemiological features. Developments in the so-called -omics sciences have not only advanced our knowledge of the biology and pathology of the parasite, but also led to the discovery of new diagnostic, drug, and vaccine targets. C sinensis infection is primarily related to liver and biliary disorders, especially cholangiocarcinoma. Clonorchiasis mainly occurs in east Asia, as a result of the region's social-ecological systems and deeply rooted cultural habit of consuming raw freshwater fish. The Kato-Katz technique, applied on fresh stool samples, is the most widely used diagnostic approach. Praziquantel is the treatment of choice and has been considered for preventive chemotherapy. Tribendimidine showed good safety and therapeutic profiles in phase 2 trials and warrants further investigation. Still today, the precise distribution, the exact number of infected people, subtle morbidities and pathogenesis, and the global burden of clonorchiasis are unknown. Integrated control strategies, consisting of preventive chemotherapy; information, education, and communication; environmental management; and capacity building through intersectoral collaboration should be advocated. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.