An evidence-based look at Crohns Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. This blog explores various aspects of inflammatory bowel disease, including nutrition, treatment, and lifestyle based on clinical evidence.
Sunday, March 16, 2014
Although they sound like a type of sea life, coprolites are
fossilized feces. While they are
applicable to many fields (imagine having to look through brontosaurus feces),
human coprolites can tell us about our ancestor’s dietary habits, infections,
and biome makeup. Human coprolites have
even helps us date the first humans present in North America (though there is
valid controversy over the dating).(1,2)
Disease-wise, ancient coprolites have been found to contain
most modern parasites, in addition certain bacterial strains. Clostridium has been identified as early as
1240 CE in fossilized feces. Evidence of
tapeworms, hookworms, mites, lice, and fleas have been identified in coprolites
dating back to approximately 4,000 BCE. Charcot-Leyden
Crystals, evidence of diarrhea, were identified in at least one sample of
ancient coprolites as well.(3)
Prehistoric coprolites dating from 3500 BCE in the Americas
showed a change in diet around that time, shifting from pochote and millet as
food crops to cassava, mesquite, maguey, and beans. Additionally, pollen analysis showed the use
of juniper tea, potentially for medicinal reasons.(4)
To-date, coprolites have not been used to identify the
prevalence of IBD in earlier societies.
Diseases ranging from tuberculosis to pertussis have been identified,
but they were found through the presence of relevant pathogens.(5) Because there have been no pathogens
definitively identified as causing IBD (though previous posts discuss the
correlational evidence), this route has not been fruitful. There is reason, however, to believe that
future analysis may yield some information.
Possible avenues for identification include:
·Mineral analysis. Based on the likely deficiencies present in
IBD, there would be an expected difference in absorption for those with IBD
based on other samples from the then-current diet.
·Pathogen analysis. Though we haven’t found causal pathogens,
correlated pathogen presence may provide indicators of IBD.
·Evidence of diarrhea. Evidence that a coprolite “creator” suffered
from diarrhea without corresponding infections being present may be a possible
·Protein analysis. Analyzing the proteins present in coprolites
may yield clues as well.(6) Fecal
calprotectin is a protein marker for IBD, and has a possibility of being
present in ancient feces.
Unfortunately, little is known about the presence of
inflammatory bowel disease through the ages.
Hopefully, coprolites may play a role in the near future in tracing back
the history of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
·Coprolite analysis can provide insight into ancient
human dietary intake and the presence of pathogens
·No published research was found trying to
analyze coprolites for markers of IBD, but possible avenues exist for future research.
Thomas P., Dennis L. Jenkins, Anders Götherstrom, Nuria Naveran, Juan J.
Sanchez, Michael Hofreiter, Philip Francis Thomsen et al. "DNA from
pre-Clovis human coprolites in Oregon, North America."Science 320,
no. 5877 (2008): 786-789.
Hendrik, Stuart Fiedel, Christine E. King, Alison M. Devault, Kirsti Bos,
Melanie Kuch, and Regis Debruyne. "Comment on “DNA from pre-Clovis human
coprolites in Oregon, North America”."Science 325, no. 5937 (2009): 148-148.
J., and Vaughn M. Bryant Jr. "Coprolite analysis: A biological perspective
on archaeology." (1992).
Vaughn M. "Prehistoric diet in southwest Texas: the coprolite
evidence."American Antiquity (1974): 407-420.
Armougom F, Le Bailly M, Robert C, Drancourt M (2014) Polyphasic Analysis of a
Middle Ages Coprolite Microbiota, Belgium. PLoS ONE 9(2): e88376.
Margaret E., Robert M. Yohe II, Howard Ceri, and Mark Q. Sutton.
"Immunological protein residue analysis of non-lithic archaeological
materials."Journal of Archaeological
Science 20, no. 1 (1993): 93-100.