Consumption of lungworm snails can transmit the lungworm parasite Angiostrongylus cantonensis
, which can cause meningitis
in humans and respiratory problems in dogs, which can eat afflicted slugs while running through open fields. Researchers at the University of Exeter hooked up LEDs to these snails
to study their nighttime movements through gardens and how those movements might help them act as a vector for the parasites.
posted by Blazecock Pileon
on Aug 23, 2013 -
One of the many problems farmers of various kinds of legumes need to deal with is the pea aphid
. They reproduce incredibly fast and live by sucking the sap out of the plants, an electron micrograph of one in action
. However, while they are terrifying parasites of legumes, they have their own yet more horrific parasites, a parasitoid
wasp. Here is a really nice close up picture of one doing its thing
, a video of the act
, and here is a brain meltingly horrific video of a dissection of the mummified aftermath 8 days later
. Essentially, these wasps deposit their eggs in a pea aphid and the growing larva feeds on it, developing there for about a week, and then consuming the host from the inside out
like a Xenomorph
. When it’s done, the wasp larva dries the aphid’s cuticle into a papery brittle shell and an adult wasp emerges from the aphid mummy. Legume farmers love them, and you can even order their mummies online these days
. However, farmers noticed that the wasps didn't work as effectively on all of the aphids, and so researchers went to work figuring out why. It turns out that all aphids have a primary bacterial endosymbiont living inside their cells, in addition to and just like a mitochondria, and that many have some combination of five other secondary endosymbionts
. Interestingly, two of those other five, Hamiltonella defensa
and Serratia symbiotica
have been shown to confer varying levels of resistance to the parasitoid wasp, allowing the aphid to survive infection. However, it turns out that there is yet one more layer to this story, [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb
on Oct 22, 2012 -
"Why do parasites harm their hosts? Conventional wisdom holds that because parasites depend on their hosts for survival and transmission, they should evolve to become benign, yet many parasites cause harm. Theory predicts that parasites could evolve virulence (i.e., parasite-induced reductions in host fitness) by balancing the transmission benefits of parasite replication with the costs of host death. This idea has led researchers to predict how human interventions—such as vaccines—may alter virulence evolution, yet empirical support is critically lacking." Two papers
demonstrate empirical evidence for related models predicting the origin of virulence: [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb
on Oct 21, 2012 -
are microscopic parasites that infect fish, amphibians, and now, birds and at least one terrestrial mammal. For over a hundred years they were classified at protozoa. More recent research reveals that classification to be wide of the mark:
. [more inside]
posted by Herodios
on Sep 1, 2011 -
Ms. Serrao wanted to remove the wriggling, chewing larva as soon as possible, but she also realized that the botfly in her head presented a unique opportunity for a nature photographer. As a result, she videotaped herself and the efforts by her surprisingly stoic husband, Greg Hiemenz, to remove the worm-like creature. A Vacation Bug That Keeps Biting
. With, of course, video
posted by dersins
on Sep 16, 2009 -
Devil facial tumor disease
has ravaged the population of Tasmanian Devils in the last decade. DFTD is a transmissible cancer
, i.e. the tumor cells themselves (which differ genetically from their host animal) are the agent responsible. The disease is spread by biting and other contact, and the resulting grotesque tumors interfere with feeding and lead to starvation. Poor immune response
may be partially responsible. This is actually not the only such disease: canine transmissible venereal tumor is an analogue
that has been known to be contagious since the 19th century. (CTVT, however, gets a proper immune response.) [more inside]
posted by parudox
on Oct 29, 2007 -
A worm that builds a home inside the human body, lives there happily until breeding time, then begins a journey to emerge from the skin and find a body of water to lay its eggs in. Although this may very well be a pleasant journey for the worm, for the human, it's an excrutiating one. And so we begin The Tale of the Guinea Worm
posted by Space Coyote
on Jun 14, 2004 -
My very own parasite "I swear it had two beady eyes on it. And it came out two or three inches, looked around and then retracted. I thought it was a dream, a vision of some sort."
The yuck factor of our 'little friends' vs. the yuck factor of Flushing PCB's into your nursing infant through breast feeding
("Study finds a cocktail of potentially harmful man-made chemicals in every person tested in UK..."
) On our day of public gnawing on bird chunks, I ask : which of the above is yuckier? And does anyone out there have a juicy parasite tale to share?
posted by troutfishing
on Nov 27, 2003 -
Doing science by stealth
Scientists have found a way of subverting the error checking mechanisms of web servers to allow them to perform calculations without the owners permission. This "Parasitic computing" could potentially use the internet as a single giant distributed computer.
posted by astro38
on Aug 30, 2001 -
Malaria is one of the planet's deadliest diseases and one of the leading causes of sickness and death in the developing world. According to the World Health Organization there are 300 to 500 million clinical cases of malaria each year resulting in 1.5 to 2.7 million deaths.
Malaria is a public health problem today in more than 90 countries, inhabited by a total of some 2 400 million people -- 40% of the world's population. It is also notoriously difficult to combat because of the parasite's ability to easily evade the body's immune system. Nature Update has an article
on the possibilities of designing a malarial vaccine which stimulates the immune response and has the potential of protecting people from all strains of the disease.
posted by lagado
on Nov 2, 2000 -