Ancient DNA from latrines in Northern Europe and the Middle East (500 BC–1700 AD) reveals past parasites and diet

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High-resolution insight into parasitic infections and diet of past populations in Northern Europe and the Middle East (500 BC- 1700 AD) was obtained by pre-concentration of parasite eggs from ancient latrines and deposits followed by shotgun sequencing of DNA. Complementary profiling of parasite, vertebrate and plant DNA proved highly informative in the study of ancient health, human-animal interactions as well as animal and plant dietary components. Most prominent were finding of soil-borne parasites transmitted directly between humans, but also meat-borne parasites that require consumption of raw or undercooked fish and pork. The detection of parasites for which sheep, horse, dog, pig, and rodents serves as definitive hosts are clear markers of domestic and synanthropic animals living in closer proximity of the respective sites. Finally, the reconstruction of full mitochondrial parasite genomes from whipworm (Ascaris lumbricoides) and roundworm species (Trichuris trichiura and Trichuris muris) and estimates of haplotype frequencies elucidates the genetic diversity and provides insights into epidemiology and parasite biology.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0195481
Issue number4
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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