Trichinosis historical perspective

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Danitza Lukac


Trichinella spiralis was first discovered by James Paget, an English first-year medical student, in 1835.[1] In 1846, Joseph Leidy, an American paleontologist, was the first to discover the association between undercooked meat and development of trichinosis.[2] There have been several outbreaks of trichinosis, most of them for consuming infected pork, wild boar and bear.

Historical Perspective


  • Trichinella spiralis was first discovered by James Paget, a English first-year medical student, in 1835 while witnessing and autopsy at St. Bartholomew's Hospital in London.
  • Paget took special interest in the presentation of muscle with white flecks, described as a "sandy diaphragm".
  • Although Paget is most likely the first person to have noticed and recorded these findings, the parasite was named and published in a report by his professor, Richard Owen, who is now credited for the discovery of the T. spiralis larval form.
  • Trichinosis was known as early as 1835 to have been caused by a parasite, but the mechanism of infection was unclear at the time.
  • It was not until a decade later that the American scientist Joseph Leidy pinpointed undercooked meat as the primary vector for the parasite, and not until two decades afterwards that this hypothesis was fully accepted by the scientific community.[3]

Impact on Cultural History

  • The kashrut and halal dietary laws of Judaism and Islam prohibit eating pork.
    • In the 19th century, when the association between trichinosis and under-cooked pork was first established, it was suggested that this association was the reason for the prohibition, reminiscent of the earlier opinion of the medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides that food forbidden by Jewish law was "unwholesome".
    • This theory was controversial and eventually fell out of favor.[3]


  1. Trichinosis. Wikipedia. Accessed on January 22, 2016
  2. Joseph Leidy. Wikipedia. Accessed on January 22, 2016
  3. 3.0 3.1 Trichinosis. Wikipedia. Accessed on January 22, 2016