Antibiotic resistant bacteria were found in human feces that were 700 years old by Christelle Desnues of Aix Marseille Université and colleagues in research that was presented in the Feb. 27, 2014, edition of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
The drug resistant microbes found in the ancient coprolite (fossil fecal sample) were related to disease causing viruses that exist in the modern human digestive tract as well as viruses that produce no harmful effects.
The human feces came from an urban renewal project in the city of Namur, Belgium where latrines dating back to the 1300s were discovered beneath a square.
The researchers conclude that the development of the human bacterial community and drug resistant viruses must have evolved simultaneously.
"Our evidence demonstrates that bacteriophages represent an ancient reservoir of resistance genes and that this dates at least as far back as the Middle Ages," says Desnues.
The researchers are presently evaluating the fungal and parasitic composition of the ancient coprolites in order to benefit the medical community and researchers in anthropology and evolutionary science.
This research is the first evidence that antibiotic resistant viruses and bacteria were a part of the human gut as far back as 700 years ago.