By spreading malaria, dengue fever, West Nile, yellow fever and now the Zika virus, they are the most dangerous animal in the world. What would happen if we got rid of them? It sounds like a promising idea, but what would take their place and would the rainforests survive?
How did hookworm infections slow the economy of the postbellum South? Do body mites play a role in diseases such as rosacea? Did fermenting seal flippers in Tupperware instead of traditional containers increase Native Alaskan botulism rates? Body Horrors is the blog of microbiologist Rebecca Kreston, who aims to explore the intersection of infectious diseases, the human body, public health and anthropology.
Lymphatic filariasis (or, more dramatically, "elephantiasis") is spread by mosquitoes. The mosquitoes transmit worms to your blood, the worms mate while you sleep, and their progeny travel to your lymph nodes to live a happy life. Unfortunately for you, the worms can get too big, allowing fluid to collect in your limbs or scrotum. Lucky for your neighbors, the disease can be controlled using salt. (China already did it).
Ascaris lumbricoides. According to estimates, about 1.5 billion people--about a quarter of the earth's population--are hosts to the Ascaris lumbricoides parasitic worm. Ascaris worms can grow to be 18 inches in length, and use their host's windpipe and esophagus to migrate between the small intestine and the lungs. A single human host may support dozen of large worms, which can be contracted by contact with fecal matter, animals, or undercooked pork. Under some circumstances (the worms dislike anesthesia, for example) one or more worms may exit from the mouth (a horrifying image), or the anus (one of the most disgusting images I have ever seen, and not safe for work, obviously). Here, the removal of a worm is caught on video (Realplayer). Too disgusting to post? Almost. But 1.5 billion people have got these in their bodies right now. That's what's grosser than gross.
Batten down the mosquito netting In Iraq: "Now a new wave of unexpected horror, leishmaniasis, is arriving at WRAMC – which has the only accredited leishmaniasis lab in the United States – and its dedicated docs are burning the midnight oil to find a treatment. A model predicts that 1 percent to 4 percent of our soldiers in Iraq can expect to be hit by this potentially deadly parasite, delivered by the bite of infected sand flies as common in the Middle East as fleas on a wild dog. "