Gut Parasites Seem to Be a More Ancient Problem Than Scientists Thought
Society is constantly being reminded of how much it has taken from ancient Greek philosophy and research. Recently, in December of 2017, scientists discovered that ancient Greeks knew quite a lot about different gut parasites.
In treatises written by prominent Hippocrates, he discussed preoccupation with diseases that come from the guts — intestinal parasites. While scientists have long been aware that the intestine contains millions of bacteria, the level of severity at which intestinal parasites can affect the gut has been understood only in the past few decades. The Hippocratic Corpus mentions parasites that now can clearly be defined as tapeworms, pinworms, and even roundworms.
Contemporary scientists have also confirmed this notion because of recent findings by archaeologists who discovered fecal matter attached to the pelvic bones in a burial site on the island of Kea in Greece. The fecal matter contained traces of two intestinal parasites known today as whipworm and roundworm. After further excavation, archeologists and scientists found the traces of other intestinal parasites throughout the burial grounds.
These new findings are shedding new light on the lifespan of intestinal parasites and the commonalities that the parasites of Hippocrates' time have with those now-a-day. The now verified writings by Hippocrates reveal that such parasites existed long before scientists had originally thought, and may actually be related to the long chain of human evolution itself. Scientists are also intrigued to know that the same intestinal parasites that plagued ancient Greeks are now found in modern day society throughout the world.
University of Cambridge researchers have now begun analyzing parasites throughout the region and comparing them to modern day knowledge in an attempt to learn how these parasites can either be helpful or harmful, and what methods should be taken to either work with or fight against them.
Both Hippocrates and his students noted in their medical writings that gut health was one of the most important concerns in Greek times, and that these parasites were often the number one cause of unhealthy intestines. The writings also reveal that if left untreated, parasites could cause an infection and side effects such as diarrhea, heartburn, swelling of the abdomen, weakness, and fevers or chills. One of the treatment methods suggested by the Ancient Greeks was to orally ingest certain crushed herbal roots brewed in tea with a little honey added for flavor.
Knowing that the Ancient Greeks made legitimate claims in their medical findings, and understanding that the same parasites found today were warned against in Greek times, doctors and scientists can now approach the field of gut health from a bit different perspective and work to find more efficient means of treatment.