The origins of human parasites: Exploring the evidence for endoparasitism throughout human evolution
It is important to determine the origins of human parasites if we are to understand the health of past populations and the effects of parasitism upon human evolution. It also helps us to understand emerging infectious diseases and the modern clinical epidemiology of parasites. This study aims to distinguish those heirloom parasites that have infected humans and their ancestors throughout their evolution in Africa from those recent souvenir species to which humans have only become exposed following contact with animals during their migration across the globe. Ten such heirloom parasites are proposed, which appear to have been spread across the globe. Six further heirlooms are noted to have limited spread due to the constraints of their life cycle. Twelve souvenir parasites of humans are described, along with their animal reservoirs. While the origins of 28 species of endoparasite have been determined, many more species require further assessment once a more systematic analysis of ancient parasites in other regions of Africa has been undertaken.