A new study has found that Neanderthals living in Spain around 49,000 years ago, including one nicknamed 'Sid,' were treating dental infections and stomach bugs with poplar plants containing painkillers and antibiotics! Here are the details…
Scientists studying the hardened plaque on the teeth from the fossilized remains of a series of Neanderthals found it contained genetic material from an antibiotic producing mold.
Sid, an ailing Spanish Neanderthal, was found with an abscess in his jawbone and bacteria that would have given him a nasty stomach ache.
To treat himself DNA shows he ate poplar – the bark of which contains salicylic acid, the painkilling ingredient of aspirin.
But even more intriguing was that he had also eaten a penicillin mold – possibly using it as an antibiotic!
Dr. Laura Weyrich, the lead author, of the University of Adelaide said, "Dental plaque traps microorganisms that lived in the mouth and pathogens found in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract, as well as bits of food stuck in the teeth – preserving the DNA for thousands of years."
She said the DNA, "represents a unique window into Neanderthal lifestyle – revealing new details of what they ate, what their health was like and how the environment impacted their behavior."
Another expert working on the subject, Professor Alan Cooper of Adelaide said, “The plaque showed that he also had an intestinal parasite that causes acute diarrhoea, so clearly he was quite sick.”
"He was eating poplar, which contains the pain killer salicylic acid (the active ingredient of aspirin), and we could also detect a natural antibiotic mold (Penicillium) not seen in the other specimens."
"The use of antibiotics would be very surprising, as this is more than 40,000 years before we developed penicillin," he added.