Now here’s something you don’t hear about everyday!

Lice from 1,000-year-old mummies in Peru may unravel important clues about a different sort of passage: the migration patterns of America’s earliest humans, a new University of Florida study suggests…

DNA sequencing found the strain of lice to be genetically the same as the form of body lice that spawns several deadly diseases, including typhus, which was blamed for the loss of Napoleon’s grand army and millions of other soldiers, he said.

The discovery of these parasites on 11th-century Peruvian mummies proves they were infesting the native Americans nearly 500 years before Europeans arrived, Reed said. His findings are published this week in an online edition of the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

If you want to review more info about lice, there is an Ask an Entomologist post about that very topic! Please note that there is a difference between body lice (can carry disease) and modern head lice (don’t vector diseases).

There is some other really cool reporting on historic lice here at the BBC. You could also go look for Rats, Lice, and History at your local library. A little out of date, but a fun read. I guarantee   you will not find another parasitology book that mentions the poetry of T.S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, and lice in the same chapter.

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. Lice? Blach! BTW, thanks for stopping by my blog and the kind words about my weighloss struggles…still working on it! And since you are the resident bug chick, is there a safe parasite I can digest to lose weight?! ahaha.

  2. is there a safe parasite I can digest to lose weight?

    It won’t be much of a parasite if you digest it.

  3. Not the curse of the louse mummy!

  4. It’s amazing what new things we’re learning from DNA study.
    Who’d have seen this angle? Cool story…

  5. You’ll be happy to note that Rats, Lice and History has been republished by Transaction Publishers – you can get a fresh new copy of Rats, Lice and History from the publisher — — or from bookstores worldwide and online.

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