In the Nubian mummies found traces of modern diseases


"Modern" disease may put an end to the ancient Nubian culture, the study of more than 200 mummies. Mummies have been infected by a parasitic worm, inhabiting the ditches created for irrigation. The disease, called schistosomiasis (schistosomiasis), shall be made through the skin when a person is in contact with water contaminated with worms.

The disease affects over 200 million people worldwide each year, the disease is accompanied by symptoms such as rash, fever, shivering, cough, and muscle pain. If the infection is not treated, it can damage the liver, intestines, lungs and bladder.

View the worm Schistosoma, called S. mansoni, found in a large number of Nubian mummies is a recent agent of disease associated with urban life and stagnant water in ditches for irrigation. "This is - one of the most common diseases in the delta region of Egypt today, and researchers have always assumed that it is only recently emerged pathogen, but now that we have shown that it appeared and was widely distributed thousands of years ago" - said study researcher George Armelagos (George Armelagos) at Emory University in Atlanta.

Although Armelagos and his colleagues failed to recognize the extent of infection in the Nubians, they could only determine that the infection of people was directly related to their work (mostly farming). Prior research has shown that the mummy from the area of the River Nile have been infected by worms Schistosoma, and new methods have allowed to determine what kind it is.

The research team tested the fabric of the mummies of two Nubian populations (in the region now known as Sudan), who lived 1200-1500 years ago, respectively. Earlier population, Kulubnarti, lived in a time when the lifeblood of their civilization, the Nile river, reached its highest point, and there are few signs of confirmation irrigation. "They probably did not practice irrigation, they allowed the annual flooding of the Nile to fertilize the soil" - said the agency Armelagos LiveScience.

Subsequent population, Wadi Halfa, lived just south of the river, and at a time when its water level was lower, archaeological evidence indicates that the irrigation channel was used for irrigation of crops.

The researchers expected that each population should have been signs of a certain kind of Schistosomiasis; such as worms, S. mansoni common in stagnant water, while worms Schistosoma haematobium, is another species that can infect humans, live in flowing waters. (Group particularly sought antigens, proteins associated with the parasites as well as the response of the molecules of the organism, the antibody).

As a result, they found the following: about 25 percent of the studied 46 mummies Wadi Halfa were infected with worms S. mansoni, while infected mummies Kulubnarti was only 9 percent (190 individuals tested). "Previously, everyone thought that S. haematobium worms were the source of infection, and this analysis shows that it was S. mansoni" - said Armelagos.

The two populations are also likely to have been infected by worms S. haematobium, the researchers reported that they did not test for the presence of the worm. Irrigation canals created a population of Wadi Halfa, likely to have been the source of parasites S. mansoni, as the researchers noted. The population of Wadi Halfa, probably exposed to the disease, when people used the canals to wash their clothes, and watering the fields with crops.

The analysis was published in the June issue of the journal "American Journal of Physical Anthropology".

Original: LiveScience Translation: M. Potter

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