Skip to main content

King Richard III had worms, scientists say

By Dana Ford and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
September 5, 2013 -- Updated 1050 GMT (1850 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Multiple roundworm eggs are found in samples from where his intestines would've been
  • King Richard III's remains were discovered beneath a parking lot in Leicester
  • He was killed in 1485, at the Battle of Bosworth Field

London (CNN) -- Even a king can get them.

Researchers working with the remains of King Richard III said on Wednesday that he was infected with roundworms in his intestines.

They know because they found multiple roundworm eggs in soil samples from around his pelvis, where his intestines would have been, according to a study published online in the journal Lancet.

New mystery: A coffin inside a coffin

New mystery at Richard III burial site
The king in the parking lot
Skeletal remains are of Richard III

Eggs were not found in a sample taken from near the king's head, and a sample from around his grave showed only scant contamination, the researchers said.

Last year, archaeologists unearthed a body buried beneath a nondescript parking lot in the city of Leicester. In February, they confirmed the remains were those of Richard III, the last king of England to die on the battlefield.

Is this the face that launched 1,000 myths?

The news drew global attention, thanks in part to Richard's bloodthirsty reputation -- as immportalized in William Shakespeare's play "Richard III."

As many as 1.2 billion people in the world are thought to be infected with Ascaris lumbricoides, the kind of roundworm eggs found in the king's remains, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ascaris lives in the intestine and eggs are passed in the feces.

Some people infected show no symptoms, but some can have abdominal discomfort. In severe cases, the infection can cause intestinal blockage and stunt growth in children, the CDC said.

Cases in present day Britain are rare, according to the National Health Service, with most cases now diagnosed occurring in people who have traveled from parts of the world where roundworm is present.

War of the Roses

King Richard was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, at age 32. It was the last fight in the War of the Roses, which ended with Henry VII of the Tudor line on the throne.

The Leicester site is where a church, known as Greyfriars Friary, once stood.

Back from the grave, King Richard III gets rehab

Over the centuries, the whereabouts of the friary's remnants were forgotten, but it remained in the records as the burial place of Richard III.

Last year, archaeologists began to excavate the parking lot site, and in February announced that they were convinced "beyond reasonable doubt" that the skeleton found there belonged to Richard.

Mitochondrial DNA extracted from the bones was matched to Michael Ibsen, a Canadian cabinetmaker and direct descendant of Richard III's sister, Anne of York, and a second distant relative, who wished to remain anonymous.

Experts said other evidence -- including battle wounds and signs of scoliosis, or curvature of the spine -- found during the search and more than four months of tests afterward strongly supported the DNA findings.

The king's remains are due to be reburied in Leicester Cathedral, close to the site of his original grave, next year.

CNN's Dana Ford wrote in Atlanta and Laura Smith-Spark in London. Jethro Mullen contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 0242 GMT (1042 HKT)
Successful launch of lunar orbiter, seen as a precursor for a planned mission to the surface of the moon, marks significant advance for the country's space program.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1915 GMT (0315 HKT)
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, shot while standing guard at Ottawa's National War Memorial, was known for his easygoing manner and smile.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Non-stop chatter about actress' appearance is nasty, cruel, hurtful, invasive and sexist.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 2208 GMT (0608 HKT)
CEO's 30-min Putonghua chat is the perfect charm offensive for Facebook's last untapped market.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 0345 GMT (1145 HKT)
Chinese leaders want less odd architecture built in the country.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2058 GMT (0458 HKT)
Air New Zealand's new 'Hobbit' safety video stars Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, elves and orcs.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1414 GMT (2214 HKT)
A 15-year-old pregnant girl is rescued from slavery, only to be charged with having sex outside of marriage, shocked rights activists say -- a charge potentially punishable by death.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0333 GMT (1133 HKT)
After sushi and ramen, beef is on the list of must-eats for many visitors to Japan.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1607 GMT (0007 HKT)
Airports judged on comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 1748 GMT (0148 HKT)
Scientists use CT scans to recreate a life-size image of the ancient king.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0959 GMT (1759 HKT)
Despite billions spent on eradicating poppy production, Afghan farmers are growing bumper crops, a U.S. government report says.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT