An article published this Friday (26) in the magazine Parasitology describes an important discovery for medicine made possible by the analysis of biblical-era toilet seats in Jerusalem. Traces of poop dating back more than 2500 years found in stone pits bring the oldest evidence of a certain protozoan harmful to health.
This microscopic parasite, the duodenal giardiacauses dysentery, an intestinal infection that results in severe bloody diarrhea, often accompanied by stomach cramps and fever.
Private baths were rare in Jerusalem in ancient times, a privilege of the wealthy classes. Most of the population used the community baths. Examples of them have already been excavated in various parts of the sacred city. Their structures were composed of stone blocks with a larger central hole for defecation and a smaller hole for urination. Below was a single well.
Since some are still in their original locations, scientists see them as a unique opportunity to investigate the presence of microorganisms.
Previous studies of the pits revealed roundworm eggs, worms and tapeworms, indicating the absence of sanitation practices at the time. However, although these eggs are robust and can be stored for thousands of years, the fragile cysts produced by the protozoa are much harder to detect.
For a more precise investigation, a team of researchers from Cambridge University, Tel Aviv University and the Israel Antiquities Authority has shown that they can identify the presence of the parasite that causes dysentery using a technique called ELISA (acronym for “ immunoabsorption assay”). “).
This method can detect antigens – substances that trigger human immune responses – produced by many different organisms.
One sample was collected from the pit of the House of Ahiel, located outside the city walls of Jerusalem, and three samples from the pit of Armon ha-Natziv, located about 1.1 km south of the city. Using the ELISA kit, they discovered, in all of them, a protein that is produced and released by the G. duodenalisa tiny, pear-shaped pest.
Its absorption occurs through food or water contaminated by the feces of an infected person or animal. Thus, the organism disrupts the protective lining of the human intestine, allowing the parasite access to the organ’s nutrients.
Most infected people recover quickly without the use of antibiotics. However, when the intestinal lining breaks down, bacteria and other microorganisms can also enter, which can make some people seriously ill.
According to the article, the find represents “the earliest known evidence of G. duodenalis so far identified in a past population anywhere in the world,” suggesting the “long-term presence of this parasite in Near Eastern populations.”
It is not known exactly how long G. duodenalis has been causing human dysentery, but medical texts from Mesopotamia, one of the first complex societies, refer to the problem about 3,000-4,000 years ago.
‘Much more research on applying ELISA to early societies is needed to fully understand which regions of the world each organism originated from and when it spread to new areas through migration, trade and military invasions,’ concludes the research .
Biblical Era Post-Poop Brings Historical Revelation to Medicine first appeared on Olhar Digital.
Source: Olhar Digital