University of Leicester
King Richard III died on the battlefield in 1485. His body was found to contain roundworms, a common parasite.
The recent discovery
of the body of King Richard III has rekindled interest in the man and his reign—he may not have been quite so ruthless a monarch as Shakespeare or the later Tudor monarchs would have us believe—but it has also helped scientists answer basic questions about the nature of his deformity (scoliosis) and, more recently, his digestive health.
Scientists exhuming the last Plantaganet king discovered roundworm eggs in the soil around where his intestines once were. Those scientists speculate that King Dick suffered from intestinal parasites that reached up to a foot long, according to the Washington Post
Today, roundworms affect approximately 1.5 billion people worldwide, though infestations are largely centered on countries in South America, Africa and Asia. Symptoms include hives, fever, cough, shortness of breath and anorexia. The parasite is transmitted through contact with contaminated food and feces.
Due to poor hygiene, roundworms were a common ailment in King Richard III's day. For the poor, they would have been a burden, as worms leach nutrients out of the human digestive tract. For the well-fed king, they would have been a source of discomfort. Today, roundworm infestations are treated with a one-dose pill.
Richard III is the first English monarch to have been conclusively diagnosed with a roundworm infestation.