Mummy autopsy reveals earliest known case of liver parasite

Aug 25, 2017

By Colin Barras

It might have been what the doctor ordered, but it didn’t do the patient much good. A 375-year-old mummified man discovered in South Korea had a parasitic liver infection caught by eating raw shellfish, which the man might have done on medical advice.

Jing Lee died in 1642 at the age of 63 and was buried in what is now Cheongdo. His body was remarkably well preserved when archaeologists unearthed it in 2014.

With permission from Jing Lee’s descendants, a team led by Min Seo at Dankook University College of Medicine, South Korea, CT-scanned the mummy. This revealed a strange lump on the man’s liver.

The team removed the lump and found it contained golden-brown eggs, each roughly 85 micrometres long. They identified them as belonging to a parasitic fluke, Paragonimus westermani. That means Jing Lee was suffering from hepatic paragonimiasis when he died. He is the oldest known case, say Seo and her colleagues.

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