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Investigating the association between intestinal parasite infection and cribra orbitalia in the medieval population of Cambridge, UK

journal contribution
posted on 2024-01-05, 14:24 authored by Tianyi Wang, Jenna M Dittmar, Sarah A Inskip, Craig Cessford, Piers D Mitchell

Objective

Cribra orbitalia is believed to be a skeletal indicator of chronic anaemia, scurvy, rickets or related metabolic diseases. It has been suggested that it may be used as a proxy indicator for intestinal parasite infection, as parasites often cause anaemia today. Our aim is to investigate this association in the medieval population of Cambridge, UK.

Materials

Individuals excavated from the cemeteries of the Augustinian friary and All Saints by the Castle parish church, and aged from 7 to adulthood.

Methods

We undertook parasite analysis of the pelvic sediment and control samples of 46 burials with intact orbital roofs.

Results

Human roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides) and/or whipworm (Trichuris trichiura) were identified in the pelvic sediment of 22 individuals, and cribra orbitalia noted in 11 individuals. Barnards test showed no association between parasite infection and cribra orbitalia (p = .882).

Conclusion

We found no association between infection and cribra orbitalia infection in this medieval adult population, calling into question this hypothesis, at least for adults.

Significance

High or low cribra orbitalia prevalence in adults should not be used to infer rates of intestinal parasite infection.

Limitations

The individuals in the study were over the age of 7, with no younger children. It is possible that only parasites which cause marked anaemia (such as hookworm, schistosomiasis or malaria) may cause cribra orbitalia, while less marked anaemia from roundworm and whipworm may not do so.

Suggestions for further research

Repeating this study in younger children, when most cribra orbitalia appears to form.

History

Author affiliation

School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester

Version

  • VoR (Version of Record)

Published in

International journal of paleopathology

Volume

44

Pagination

20 - 26

Publisher

Elsevier BV

issn

1879-9817

eissn

1879-9825

Copyright date

2023

Available date

2024-01-05

Spatial coverage

Netherlands

Language

eng

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