In a series of paleo-parasitological investigations, we have been able to obtain invaluable data on parasite infection patterns prevalent among the Joseon (1392-1910) people in Korea. Thus far we have established that the Joseon people were in fact heavily infected by various species of parasites, though precise patterns and exact statuses of infection in specific town and cities have proved elusive. In the present study, relevant historical documentation was obtained and examined, shedding light on some of the operative socio-cultural factors that might have played a role in inducing a high infection prevalence of Ascaris, a soil-transmitted roundworm, in Joseon society. On this evidentiary basis, we could confirm that the recycling of human feces as fertilizer and the habit of eating raw vegetables were both closely related to infection. These factors were sufficient to maintain the life cycle of Ascaris, there by perpetuating a cycle of infection and reinfection among the Joseon inhabitants. Overall, this study demonstrated the value of close medical-scientist / historian interdisciplinary collaboration infacilitating comprehensive and meaningful paleo-parasitological findings and interpretations.
- Historical review
- Joseon Dynasty