The Research Project Revealed About Viking Red Squirrels Trade Spreading Leprosy in Medieval Europe

In 2016, a research program was launched in England aiming better study how the British red squirrels were affected by leprosy. The research raises many queries but reveals very few solid answers.

Leprosy was first observed in red squirrels residing within Scotland. These red squirrels affected by leprosy sometimes develop wounds around their ears and even on their muzzles and appendages. Now, it has allowed the population of grey squirrels to rise particularly on island. However, it seems that the grey squirrels don’t contract leprosy.

But, the most obvious and important question raises is that how did the disease, leprosy arrived in the first place of England. the Journal of Medical Microbiology released a new article suggesting that the red squirrels infected by leprosy belonged to the past of number of centuries back to date up to at least 5th-11th c. CE, i.e. pre-Norman England.

The evidence is based on a part of woman’s skull discovered in a garden between 1960 and 1990 in Hoxne, in Suffolk. The skull exhibited the manners of Lepromatous Leprosy (LL). Since, the recent radiocarbon skull dating shows that the woman could have lived somewhat around 885 to 1015 CE. 


Professor Monica H. Green, a medieval medical historian from the Arizona State University raised some critical issues associated with the recent research. Monica points that, “No genetics data confirms that [the] woman in Hoxne was infected by squirrels, nor has zoonotic transmission from squirrels been documented in any other case. But, they are absolutely right that UK squirrels have been shown to carry same strain as one documented in humans in medieval England & in modern North America.” 

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