Published in Journal of Parasitology, Vol. 98 No. 2 (April 2012) at doi:10.1645/GE-2915.1


We present the first reconstruction of the parasitoses among the people of the Loma San Gabriel culture, as represented by 36 coprolites excavated from the Cueva de los Muertos Chiquitos in Durango, Mexico. The coprolites date to approximately 1,400-yr-ago. Species identified based on eggs recovered include the trematode Echinostoma sp., the tapeworms Hymenolepis sp. and Dipylidium caninum, and the nematodes Ancylostoma duodenale, Enterobius vermicularis, and Trichuris trichiura. After rehydration and screening, 2 methods were used to recover eggs from these samples including spontaneous sedimentation and flotation. Samples were analyzed by 3 different laboratories for independent verification and comparison of methods. Spontaneous sedimentation resulted in the discovery of hymenolepidid eggs that were not found with flotation. Sedimentation was a more-sensitive indicator of prevalence as well. The modified method of flotation permitted estimation of egg concentration and resulted in the detection of a few specimens not found by sedimentation. The results of both methods showed that 19 (of 36) coprolites contained helminth eggs. Our results detected the presence of pathogenic helminths including hookworms and whipworms. The cestodes found do not cause severe pathology in humans. The early dates of hookworm and whipworm, relative to other findings in the southwest United States, indicate that these parasites arrived relatively late in prehistory in Arizona and New Mexico, probably moving into the area with travelers from Mesoamerica.