King Richard III was infected with roundworms, according to researchers who studied his remains. The bones of one of England’s most despised monarchs were discovered under a parking lot in Leicester, England, last year.
The researchers reported seeing several roundworm eggs in the soil around the late King’s pelvis, around the area where his intestines would have been.
There were no eggs near his skull and only traces of them in the soil near the grave, reports Yahoo! News. The infection likely didn’t cause King Richard III many problems.
While roundworm infections can lead to stunted growth in children and a reduced IQ, they don’t have as much of an effect on adults — especially when they are well-fed. Given his prominence in society, Richard was almost certainly well-fed.
The deposed king still would have felt some discomfort. ABC News notes that King Richard III was likely infected when he ate meat infested with roundworm eggs. Once they hatch, the worms travel to the lungs and throat, then are ingested back to the small intestines.
While he may not have known he had them, the roundworms could have made a rather nasty appearance as the king died in battle. When the parasites are shocked, they can move quickly. They have been known to pop out of peoples’ noses and ears in car accidents.
Just as King Richard III was likely infected with roundworms, the ancient bacteria still lives today. About 820 million people around the world are infected with it. Unlike in the 15th century, modern infections can be easily cured with an inexpensive pill.
But King Richard wasn’t so lucky. Instead, the king’s doctors would likely have heard symptoms like coughing and an unpleasant feeling while swallowing. In response, their likely treatment plan would have included things like bloodletting.
While researchers believe King Richard III was infected with roundworms, there is no way to know for sure.
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