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CYSTICERCOSIS IN AN EGYPTIAN MUMMY OF THE LATE PTOLEMAIC PERIOD

FABRIZIO BRUSCHIDepartment of Experimental Pathology, Department of Ethology, Ecology ed Evolution, Department of Oncology, Transplants and Advanced Technologies in Medicine, Section of History of Medicine and Paleopathology, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy

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MASSIMO MASETTIDepartment of Experimental Pathology, Department of Ethology, Ecology ed Evolution, Department of Oncology, Transplants and Advanced Technologies in Medicine, Section of History of Medicine and Paleopathology, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy

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MARIA TERESA LOCCIDepartment of Experimental Pathology, Department of Ethology, Ecology ed Evolution, Department of Oncology, Transplants and Advanced Technologies in Medicine, Section of History of Medicine and Paleopathology, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy

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ROSALBA CIRANNIDepartment of Experimental Pathology, Department of Ethology, Ecology ed Evolution, Department of Oncology, Transplants and Advanced Technologies in Medicine, Section of History of Medicine and Paleopathology, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy

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GINO FORNACIARIDepartment of Experimental Pathology, Department of Ethology, Ecology ed Evolution, Department of Oncology, Transplants and Advanced Technologies in Medicine, Section of History of Medicine and Paleopathology, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy

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We describe here an ancient case of cysticercosis that was discovered in an Egyptian mummy of a young woman of about 20 years of age who lived in the late Ptolemaic period (second to first centuries b.c.). On removal of the stomach and its rehydration, a cystic lesion in the stomach wall was observed by naked eye. Microscopical examination of sections of this lesion revealed a cystic structure, with a wall, with numerous projecting eversions, a characteristic feature of the larval stage (cysticercus) of the human tapeworm Taenia solium (or “pig tapeworm”). Immunohistochemical testing with serum from a T. solium–infected human confirmed the identity of the cyst. This finding is the oldest on record of the antiquity of this zoonotic parasite. This observation also confirms that, in Hellenistic Egypt, the farming of swine, along with man an intermediate host of this parasite, was present, and supports other archeological evidence.

Author Notes

Reprint requests: Fabrizio Bruschi, Department of Experimental Pathology, Via Roma 55, 56126 Pisa, Italy, Telephone: +39(050) 2218547, Fax: +39(050)2218557, E-mail: fbruschi@med.unipi.it.
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