Fasciola hepatica eggs in paleofaeces of the Persian onager Equus hemionus onager, a donkey from Chehrabad archaeological site, dating back to the Sassanid Empire (224–651 AD), in ancient Iran

Askari, Z. and Mas-Coma, S. and Bouwman, A.S. and Boenke, N. and Stöllner, T. and Aali, A. and Rezaiian, M. and Mowlavi, G.

Volume: 62 Pages: 233-243
DOI: 10.1016/j.meegid.2018.04.028
Published: 2018

Fascioliasis is a highly pathogenic zoonotic disease caused by the liver trematodes Fasciola hepatica and F. gigantica. Within the multidisciplinary initiative against this disease, there is the aim of understanding how this disease reached a worldwide distribution, with important veterinary and medical repercussions, by elucidating the spreading steps followed by the two fasciolids from their paleobiogeograhical origins. Fasciola eggs were detected in paleofaeces of a donkey, probably the present-day endangered Persian onager Equus hemionus onager, found in the Chehrabad salt mine archaeological site, Zanjan province, northwestern Iran. The biological remains dated back to the Sassanid period, 224–651 AD. Egg characteristics allowed for their specific ascription to F. hepatica. The interest of this finding relies on the fact of being the first archaeological finding of Fasciola in Asia and the Near East. Moreover, it allows to reach many conclusions about historical, epidemiological and spreading aspects of the disease. The finding in Chehrabad indicates that, at that time, this fasciolid had already spread through the Zagros mountains eastward from the Fertile Crescent. In that region and in ancient Egypt, livestock domestication played a crucial role in facilitating the disease spread during the postdomestication period. Donkeys appear at present to be usually infected by fasciolids in countries of the Fertile Crescent - Ancient Egypt region or neighbouring that region, with prevalences from low to very high. The high pathogenicity and mortality induced by Fasciola in these equines should be considered as an additional potential factor among the causes of the extinctions of E. h. hemippus in Syria, E. h. hydruntinus in the Anatolia-Balkans area, E. h. onager in the Caucasus and maybe also its decline in Iran. Indeed, Eurasiatic wild asses were present in the region and neighbourhood of the Fertile Crescent when the domestication of the livestock reservoirs of Fasciola began. © 2018 Elsevier B.V.

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