Ancient parasite egg found in Syria

London, (ST) In a new finding, the egg of a parasite that still infects people today was found in the burial plot of a child who lived 6,200 years ago in what is now known as Syria.

"We found the earliest evidence for a parasite (that causes) Schistosomiasis in humans," Piers Mitchell, biological anthropologist at University of Cambridge in Britain, was quoted as saying.

The parasite's egg was found in the area around Tigris and Euphrates rivers, where some of the first irrigation techniques were invented about 7,500 years ago.

The egg was found in a cemetery with 26 skeletons at a site called Tell Zeidan in Syria.

The site was occupied by people from about 7,800-5,800 years ago, and may have housed a few thousand people, said Gil Stein, archaeologist at University of Chicago in the US.

The oldest Schistosoma egg found previously, in Egyptian mummies, was dated to 5,200 years ago.

The findings suggest that advances in farming technologies caused the rise of human infections with the water-borne worm.

Schistosoma parasites live in fresh water snails and burrow into human skin when people wade into warm, fresh water, Live Science reported.

Agricultural technologies are tied to the parasite's prevalence.

The findings appeared in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Source: IANS

M. Wassouf