Some Antiparasitics used by Ancient Egyptians, Adapted from Abdel All .
Parasitology is an interesting field of biology, and parasites have been the subjects of some of the most exciting discoveries among infectious diseases. A parasite is an organism that lives on or in a host organism and acquires its food from or at the expense of its host. There are three main classes of parasites: protozoa, helminths, and arthropods. All through history, the worldwide prevalence of selected parasitic diseases shows that there are more than enough existing infections for every living person to have one. Some serious parasites such as malaria, schistosomiasis, and African sleeping sickness have forward incalculable millions to their graves. In company with their bacteria, fleas destroyed a third of the European population in the seventeenth century .
Silently suffering, domesticated animals [2, 3] and birds [4, 5] are subject to a wide variety of parasites often in greater numbers than in humans for the reason that they are usually confined to the same pastures, pens, or farms, so that the infective stages of parasites turn out to be exceedingly dense in the soil, and the burden of parasites within each host grows to be overwhelming. Moreover, most wild animals can tolerate their parasite burdens fairly well, but crowdedness and malnutrition could subject infected herds to quick extinction unless a means of control of their parasites can be established in the near future .
Some other problems include food-borne illness and zoonosis, any disease or infection that is naturally transmissible from vertebrate animals to humans and vice versa, such as trichinosis, echinococcosis, and toxoplasmosis [6–9]. Furthermore, new zoonoses were recognized from time to time; Lyme disease, a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks, was long present in deer and white-footed mice, but recurrent transmission to humans was revealed in the 1970s . Toxoplasmosis, a protozoan parasite transmitted by cats, increases rates of suicides and car accidents and leads to changes in personality profile exaggerated by schizophrenia; cultural changes could occur in populations where this parasite is very common, owing to mass personality modification regarding cultural aspects related to ego, work, rules, money, and material possessions .
2. Global burden of parasitic infection
Parasites bring about chronic debilitating, periodically disabling disease, are responsible for the overwhelming financial loss. In situations where it is prevalent, the number of hours of productive labor lost multiplied by the number of sufferer’s yields a figure that can be charged as a loss in the manufacture of goods, in the production of crops, or in the earning of a gross national product . Studies of 2010 and 2013 are enormous indicating that 832,900 yearly death estimates for parasitic infection including malaria, 584,000; cryptosporidiosis, 100,000; amebiasis, 55,000; leishmaniasis, 51,600; schistosomiasis, 11,700; Chagas disease, 10,300; cysticercosis, 1200; and food-borne trematodiases, 7000. The human population experienced a full amount of 2.5 billion Disability Adjusted Life Year (DALYs ) in 2013, which is a large number of suffering but represents a significant reduction, ~25%, since 1990. DALYs are nearly the sum of Years of Life Lost (YLL) by the reason of premature mortality and Years Lost due to Disability (YLD) for people living with a health condition or its consequences .
3. Man-made problems
Without recognizing the ecological and environmental consequences, favorable conditions for parasites had been created, for instance, millions of people, especially children, die each year from preventable diseases through proper sanitation facilities. Urbanization is another problem as population shifts from rural to urban areas and high population densities commonly overload water and sewage capabilities of even major cities. Nightsoil (manure) is often used as fertilizer on food crops usually aggravates parasitic problems. Moreover, there are several examples of national and international efforts to enhance productivity and standard of living in less-developed countries that inadvertently increased parasitic diseases. Despite opposite advice from their own agricultural experts, The World Bank loaned the government of Brazil funds to pave highways into the Amazon region to inhabit poor urban workers for farming. As a consequence, the prevalence of malaria increased and spread to new foci when the migrants returned to the cities after their farms failed. Smaller dams for drainage and agriculture have promoted transmission of schistosomiasis, onchocerciasis, dracunculiasis, and malaria. In the same token, construction of the Aswan High Dam, an embankment dam built across the Nile, between 1960 and 1970, on the Nile River to control floods, provides water for irrigation and generates hydroelectricity, which is pivotal to Egypt’s industrialization, resulted (unfortunately) in increased schistosomiasis in Egypt . The unauthorized introduction of crayfish to the Nile Delta, Egypt, controlled snails biologically and broke the life cycle of
4. Looking back for going full speed ahead
As the purpose of our book is to dig deeply and smoothly for the current alternative antiparasitics, it is wise to look back for ancient and traditional solutions to get the most of them and to go full speed ahead. In fact, many of the important parasites encountered today not only existed but were widespread in their distribution before written records began, and our early ancestors must have been aware of the presence of the largest and most common worms and of some of the diseases caused by parasites. Humans created high cultures in all continents, such as the peoples of the Egyptians, Sumerians, Babylonians, Mongolians, Chinese, Mayas, Aztecs, Incas, and so on. Medicinal plants had been time-honored everywhere and upgraded from generation to generation orally or through written documents (e.g., on dried/fired clay plates, papyrus), which was lost during wars and/or at the fall of high cultures after centuries of Excellency, so that only portions of all knowledge were retained until today.
Being the cradle of civilization, Ancient Egypt became synonymous with power, wealth, and technological advancement. I prefer taking about Ancient Egyptian Medicine, not only because I am very proud to be one of their ancestors and enthralled by eco-friendly alternatives in the interim but also because a great part of their stories are well documented and preserved, and they gave us the ever-standing pyramids, the mummies, the first solar calendar, hieroglyphics, and many more. Although abundant on historic ruins, the writings of Egyptians themselves were virtually indecipherable until the Rosetta stone was discovered in 1799 during Napoleon’s conquest of Egypt. This basalt Stela bore a tribute to Ptolemy V (196 B.C.) carved in hieroglyphics and repeated in demotic, or simplified, characters, and also in Greek, providing Jean-Francois Champollion necessary keys to decipher the language . It is said that when the young Frenchman realized the value of such stone, he fainted.
The credit should be given to Champollion for opening doors to a wider understanding of Ancient Egypt. So set back and be ready to travel back to ancient time, to hear the voices from the past, from the land of legend and mystery, known as “
5. Ancient Egyptian medicine
Ancient Egypt was not exclusively characterized by the construction of giant pyramids but as an epitome of medical knowledge that had a profound impact on Greek medicine and subsequently spread worldwide. If you were sick during the time of the pharaohs, no worries! There was a specialist doctor for your illness and the credit is given to Imhotep who diagnosed and treated well over 200 diseases that dealt with the abdomen, rectum, bladder, eyes, and more. He is known to have practiced surgery as well as dentistry. The Edwin Smith Papyrus (carries the name of the man who purchased it from an Egyptian dealer in 1862) is the only medical papyrus of its time to reflect a scientific approach to medicine. Many Egyptologists credit the text to Imhotep, albeit he lived one millennium earlier, as the Papyrus is believed to be based on texts written earlier than 1600 B.C. .
To see the full vivid picture, the ancient Egyptians were very clean people who loved life and wanted to live their lives free of disease and pain. They bathed and purified their bodies often and shaved their body hair. Amusingly, they believed that human body consisted of passages that behaved like irrigation canals. When such canals became blocked, the person became sick. Therefore, they practice medicine in health and in sickness for preventative and curative health care. The first school dedicated to medicine dates all the way back to Egypt’s first dynasty. Physicians studied at schools called “
Enchantingly, the green color used in eye makeup probably came from copper salts, which have an antiseptic effect, but whether they were effective inadvertently in preventing or treating the eye infections common in Egypt cannot be ascertained. Copper preparations, interestingly, are the main agents of the present century against trachoma , the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness of infectious origin caused by the bacterium
6. Old and current: parasitic problems as old as pyramids
Illness is not a new thing, and sufferings and losses due to parasitic diseases are old as the Egyptian pyramids (Figure 1). Ancient Egyptians were aware of the impact of the environment on the everyday life, especially the River Nile (called
6.1. Bilharziasis (aaa)
Paul Ghalioungui (1908–1987), born in Mansoura, Egypt, to a Greek Orthodox family, is famous for being an Egyptian endocrinologist, historian of Egyptian medicine, Egyptologist, and an authority on Pharaonic medicine; he wrote a vivid history of Egyptian medicine in several languages such as English, French, Arabic, German, and Spanish . According to Ghalioungui , the male adult worm is 1 cm and the female double this length but much thinner than the male. In order to see the worms, it is essential to dilute the blood in water before clotting. A magnifying lens is considered crucial. Even though there is no proof that such lenses existed at that time, Elseesy  mentioned that the ancient Egyptians, who manufactured glass and fiberglass, also invented the magnifying lens. Elseesy opines that the penile sheaths are shown in some tomb murals, whether they were anticipated to prevent urination in water or to block the access of the parasite through the urethra, also have the same hygienic measures and effect. Schistosomiasis of the rectum is painful and may explain the high percentage of ancient Egyptian remedies for the anus. It is noteworthy here that the ancient Egyptians treated
|Target Effect||Used botanicals|
|Coriander; portulaca (|
Some recipes include: coriander, sandal wood and anise; portulaca, cow milk, and honey as herbal tea for 3 days; 1 spoon of carob seeds, 1 spoon of asafoetida (
|Carob, pomegranate wine, tamarix (tamarisk, salt cedar), as well as herbal teas of the mixed ingredient as coriander, thyme and honey; and coriander, anise, and sandalwood.|
|Black peppercorns found in the nostrils of Ramses II for insect repellents; sulphurwort (|
Some ingredients as myrh, spartium (scoparius or
|Portulaca; rue (|
|For skin problems and scabies: turmeric lotion; |
|Linseed, cress (|
6.1.1. An unforeseen solution of schistosomiasis
Having an ancient root in Egypt, there was a long history of schistosomiasis control. Although the Aswan High Dam, the extension of perennial irrigation, and the increase of the Egyptian population afforded conditions favorable for its transmission, the national schistosomiasis control program that was gradually expanded after 1918, together with increased awareness, urbanization, diversification of the economy, and the changes in the rural villages, resulted in the accelerating decline of schistosomiasis . Traditionally, Egyptians were consuming chicory in large amounts; it has been discovered that it purifies the liver and the blood and it helps in case of schistosomiasis.
Biologically, the unauthorized introduction of the crayfish,
Thus, crayfish and black carp played a biological role in reducing transmission of schistosomiasis and enabling praziquantel, the drug of choice to treat patients from the 1980s onwards distributed and funded By U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), to make a dent in the prevalence rates by reducing transmission and re-infection in the meantime. In contrary to the situation in most other African countries where rates have increased, there is, fortunately, a great decline in schistosomiasis rates in Egypt in recent decades due to the intensive schistosomiasis control and water supply programs . Hopefully, similar control measures cover all
6.2. Mosquito-transmitted diseases
Filariasis is transmitted by mosquitoes and defined by swelling and thickening of the skin. Lymphatic filariasis was common along the Nile. While there are no written records, the swollen limbs of a statue of the Egyptian Pharaoh Mentuhotep II from about 2000 B.C. suggest that he was suffering from elephantiasis . Some tomb pictures of servants illustrate enlarged male external genitalia and examination of the scrotal skin from the Leeds mummy, Natsef-Amun, evidenced the existence of filarial worms .
The presence of malaria in Egypt from circa 800 BCE onwards has been confirmed using DNA-based methods  and antigens produced by
Despite the African problems, Egypt, currently, almost eliminated malaria; there have been no cases of locally transmitted malaria in Egypt ever since June 14, 2014, because of the effort of The Egyptian Ministry of Health, local government, and health authorities who engaged in intensive malaria control activities in the affected areas as a village of Aswan Governorate, the latest appearance of malaria. They have recently completed active surveillance involving screening and treating, if needed, all villagers for malaria. Moreover, mosquito control activities have included entomologic surveillance, environmental management , and distribution of impregnated bed nets (personal communication with Prof. Dr. Azaa Abdel Fattah, Research Institute of Medical Entomology, Egypt, the authorized place doing the entomological part in malaria control).
Confirmation of the presence of Guinea worm in ancient Egypt comes from the finding of a well-preserved female worm and a calcified worm in Egyptian mummies (205) . The earliest descriptions of Guinea worms are from the Ebers papyrus from 1500 BC and include instructions for treating swelling in the limbs; they appear to refer to both the nature of the infection and techniques for removing the worm. Sometimes ancient Egyptians took in Guinea worms in their drinking water. The female worm would travel to the host’s legs in order to lay her larvae, again causing ill health . The solution is to wrap the exposed end of the worm on a stick and pulling it out. Amazingly, this remedy is still used nearly 4000 years later . It worth mentioning that Dracunculiasis is not a problem in Egypt nowadays.
6.4. Enteric helminths
Enteric helminths were well known since ancient times. Evidence of eggs of the tapeworm,
For different gastrointestinal tract disorders, pomegranate and wormwood are well-known vermifuges in Egypt till now. It worth mentioning here that it is in Egypt where the first published studies have documented that traditionally used myrrh have molluscicidal effects on the intermediate hosts of trematodes as well as trematodicidal properties against
Ancient Egyptians suffered also from vermin (varmint or varmit), a plural noun means pests or nuisance animals, that spread diseases or destroy crops or livestock, till the degree of several plagues occurred during the time of Moses, such as plagues of locusts and lice infestations. The Ebers Papyrus mentions a few remedies against a number of pests. Generally speaking, tremendously clean people having rigorous notions of hygiene, the ancient Egyptians put remarkable effort and creativity into their battle against vermin.
6.5.1. Head lice
In response to the frustration and fear caused by lice, ancient Egyptians, men and women alike, typically kept their head shaved smooth. The beautifully lavish hairdos were usually wigs (an artificial covering of hair, and it was a fashion for the rich and the poor at that time), which control head lice in the mean time. Aromatic head louse formula includes one half-cup vinegar, one-half cup water, 12 drops essential oil of cinnamon, 12 drops essential oil of rosemary, and 12 drops essential oil of terebinth. Mix vinegar and water, add the essential oils and blend, and pour onto hair concentrating on areas near the scalp line, particularly near the ears and massage into the scalp. Comb thoroughly and very patiently with a fine tooth lice comb, rinsing or wiping the comb frequently. Even though head lice infestations are rare in the current decade, till the degree that the current youth know nothing about lice, Egyptians still prefer using what their ancestors did and use vinegar, essential oils, and fine-toothed comb for controlling head lice.
In fact, a formula for driving vermin from homes has a modern ring as a solution of natron water was sprinkled to eliminate and repel fleas. It is worth mentioning that natron is a salt, and lavishly sprinkling carpets with salt and then vacuuming is a modern remedy against fleas .
Traditionally, Egyptians control insects through sprinkling fine salt over carpets or affected areas that dry out fleas as they walk over it and fleas will die over time. As fleas are attracted to light, a homemade light trap suspends a candle or a small light source over a shallow pan or bowl that is full of water and liquid soap. When fleas are attracted to light, they hop right into the bowl and drown. Having no idea about the synchronization phenomenon of flea occlusion, a pet (dog or cat) trap is also used to gather a huge number of fleas when introduced to a deserted house infested with fleas; then such pet was treated with essential oils or an insecticidal shampoo.
6.5.3. Cowling Insects
Some ancient Egyptian remedies for household pests include fumigation of the house with incense and myrrh and washing the house with a solution of natron or whitewashing the walls with
6.5.4. Other vermin
Ancient Egyptians controlled the other vermin through fat of the oriole which is efficient in combating flies; fat of the woodpecker was used against fly stings; fresh palm wine would protect against gnats; loose ash spread around a grinding mill kills flour eating insects; natron, dried onion seeds or a dried Nile Tilapia were placed in front of the hiding hole of a snake to prevent it from leaving its lair; and fat of a cat spread on sacks and bundles keeps rats away, while grain is best protected from them by burning deer excrement. It worth to mention also that cats were being used by Ancient Egyptians to control rodents and protect grains; rodents were also hunted with ferrets and captured in traps . Being praised for controlling vermin and its ability to kill snakes like cobras, the domesticated cat became an icon of grace and poise. More information was mentioned in Table 1. For repelling insects, rodents, and snakes, wormwood (
7. No worries, Nature helps
Nowadays, farmers and growers are under huge pressure to decrease the use of chemical parasiticide without forfeiting yields or crop quality, in the mean time, parasitic control is becoming increasingly problematical due to the development of resistant populations and the decreasing availability of products. Substitutes for chemical control are needed urgently to be used as part of Integrated Parasite/Pest Management. Such
Nature is a smart skilled factory created to produce solutions to all our problems through an assortment of natural enemies and secondary metabolites produced by medicinal plants. Natural enemies take part in limiting potential parasite populations, and they are more likely to survive in the case of application of eco-friendly biopesticides . Botanicals including plant extracts and essential oils are the most affordable tools [48, 49] for the poor and the rich since ancient times, as herbs constitute an alternative to conventional medicine in many developing countries. Ethnopharmacology can contribute to the exploration of phytotherapeutic resources for use in local contexts and countries of origin. Microencapsulation and nanotechnology include nanocapsules for vector and pest management and nanosensors for pest detection…etc  are used widely in agriculture and food plus their potential uses and benefits for parasite control are enormous as future trends [50–53]. Therefore, most biorationals will be straightforwardly thrashed out the whole time in this book.
8. For fun and Profit, we should be ahead of them
Parasites, from a biological perspective, are exciting, beautifully adapted, and complicated organisms. Recent decades witnessing emergence and re-emergence of disease agents, some of which are parasitic or transmitted by arthropods.
An important role of parasitologists, together with that of other medical disciplines, is to break the deadly cycle by contributing to the global eradication of major parasitic diseases and pests while making possible more efficient use of the earth’s resources especially botanicals; see Khater [29, 48, 54] for more information about their safety, commercialization, resource availability, barriers to commercialization, improving the efficacy, and future trends. Besides having medical, veterinary, and economic importance, controlling parasites naturally is enthralling (fun), which could be pursued for natural and safe products (profit). Despite being smaller than us and exquisitely adapted for life on or within the body of another (bigger) organism, parasites are smaller than us, they are smarter than us as they develop resistance faster than our ability to develop new drugs. Therefore, we should be ahead of them and try to win the never-ending battle via searching for safe and complex alternatives that parasites cannot defeat. All our efforts will be fruitful only when enveloped with hard work and great patience plus passion and ended with profits planned from the far beginning.