Tuesday, November 6, 2018


RICH Romans had whipworms while poor Romans had roundworms ... but rich or poor, they all had intestinal parasites, according to new findings.

The good news is that Romans had indoor plumbing centuries before the rest of the world had running water and flushing toilets.

The bad news is that Ancient Rome's toilets, baths, aqueducts and sewage systems ... all those public baths and shared latrines ... spread intestinal parasites and body lice.

Archaeologists at a Roman-era dig site in Ephesus studied ancient sewage at a public bathhouse (for poor people) and at private toilet facilities villas (for rich people).

The public latrine produced roundworm eggs, while the private latrine had whipworm. Symptoms of both parasites in infected humans include abdominal pain, weight loss, anemia, and rectal prolapse.

"The fact that both these species of parasite are spread by the fecal contamination of food and drink," the researchers write, "highlights that sanitary issues were the dominant factor resulting in the spread of parasites in this population."

Hand-washing hygiene was not, it seems, up to contemporary standards.

People in the pre-historic times as well as in the Dark Ages who had to make do without plumbing actually had fewer worms and lice than the Romans.

The findings are contained in an article in the latest edition of Parisitology journal by Piers Mitchell, an archaeologist at the University of Cambridge.

Mitchell surveyed parasite numbers from latrine archaeological sites, in mummified remains and in fossilized feces before and after the implementation of Imperial Rome's hygiene projects.

The data suggest that roundworms and other parasites that spread through contact with feces maintained their numbers despite sanitation efforts ... perhaps because Romans used human feces to fertilize their crops and rarely changed the water at some public bath houses.

Romans also had no toilet paper, instead sharing a sponge-on-a-stick.

Fish tapeworm was even more common in Roman times that in the Bronze or Iron Ages, Mitchell claims.

He attributes to the popularity of GARUM, a fermented fish sauce in ancient Rome.

Regular bathing throughout the Empire also appears to have done little to curb populations of ectoparasites like head lice. 

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