parasites

Doomsday Prepper: [while gutting and deboning a fish they just caught from a river] “Cooking the fish will actually decrease the amount of nutrients and the calories that you’re gonna get, so eating it raw is actually preferable.”

Doomsday Preppers TV Subtitle: Cooking does not reduce the nutrients in fish but it does kill the parasites.

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Let This Awesome Science Infect Your Mind

Ed Yong is one of the finest science writers in the world. His National Geographic blog is chock full of the weird, wild, and WTF-inducing stories that make our living world so darn interesting. So I was overjoyed when I heard he would be speaking at this year’s TED.

He didn’t disappoint. In his talk above, he unlocks the under-appreciated and often cringe-worthy world of mind-controlling parasites. They get no respect, I tell ya, no respect at all. Yet they are cornerstones of countless ecosystems, determining food availability and managing population sizes like armies of freaky fauna, each deployed in a Trojan Horse of evolution’s design. Every parasite’s life is a story, by definition, an elaborate chain that extends from host to host, and I think they’ve found their minstrel in Ed. I mean that as a compliment, of course.

Listen to him weave a tapestry of tapeworms, explain what makes flamingos munch on zombie shrimp, show you how a cricket is like a TARDIS, how a wasp turns a cockroach into a cocker spaniel, and how a brain-controlling protozoan reminds him of an Elizabeth Gilbert novel. My favorite part of this? The idea that ideas themselves may be parasites.

I haven’t loved a TED talk this much in a long time. Or maybe that’s just the parasite talking. 

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The Second Disease Ever Eradicated

Only 126 cases of Guinea worm remain before the parasite disappears from humanity entirely.

For the past 30 years, Jimmy Carter has waged war on the Guinea worm, a parasite that infects people who drink water contaminated with its larvae. Carter’s first encounter with the worm was in the late 1980s during a trip to a small village in Ghana, where more than two-thirds of inhabitants were infected.

“I saw a young woman holding a baby in her arms … But it was not a baby—It was her right breast,” he said to a group of reporters. “It was [swollen to] about a foot long. And coming out of the nipple of her breast was a Guinea worm.” Carter would later discover that the woman had 11 worms in her body. This event, which he called one of the most unforgettable scenes of human suffering he had ever seen, inspired him to create a new mission for his Carter Center foundation: The complete eradication of Guinea worm disease.

In 1986, cases of Guinea worm disease numbered more than 3.5 million worldwide. Now, globally, there are only 126 cases left, Carter announced this week during the unveiling of a new exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, called Countdown to Zero: Defeating Disease. The exhibit showcases “neglected tropical diseases” such as Guinea worm, river blindness, and polio, which have disappeared from wealthy nations but still plague the developing world. Though most of the Western world has averted its attention from the scourges, Carter said that these diseases are prime for eradication, and his foundation is on track to make Guinea worm the second human disease after smallpox to be entirely eliminated worldwide.

The disease was endemic in an estimated 23,735 villages across 21 Asian and African countries like Ghana, India, Pakistan and Yemen in 1991. Now, only 30 villages in four countries—Mali, Chad, Ethiopia, and South Sudan—harbor the worms. The feat comes from decades of public-health intervention. Once inside a human host, the Guinea larva develops into a long, pale worm within a year. Then, over the course of 30 days, it emerges from the infected person’s skin through painful, swollen welts. “Imagine a worm one meter long coming out of your skin for, on average, 11 weeks. That in itself is a nightmare to me,” Craig Withers, a program director at the Carter Center, said at the event. “It’s sort of like ‘Alien’ in real life.” It’s also common for people to suffer from more than one infection, Withers said, adding that the worms can manifest in any part of the body. “Use your worst imagination: Roof of the mouth, breast, the head, scrotum. Any area, it can come out,” Withers said. Afflicted people often immerse themselves in a watering hole in an attempt to wash the worm out of their bodies, but this allows the worm to lay its eggs and start the cycle anew. 

read more 

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The Worm Wagon

The top image in this trio shows a close up of an adult Trichuris muris, a whipworm parasite. Here the worm is seen under an electron microscope but more commonly this type of worm is seen taking residence in the large intestine of its host. 

In the second image you can see illustrations of Schistosoma mansoni by Paul Evans © 2012. This parasite lives in the blood and lays thousands of eggs which result in tissue damage and even death.

BBSRC-funded Sheena Cruickshank (centre of picture) and Professor Kathryn Else (right), are lecturers at The University of Manchester who specialise in studying parasites. Both are co-founders, with Dr Jo Pennock (left), of the outreach activity called The Worm Wagon: an exhibition that is part of the BBSRC’s 20th Anniversary Festival. This exhibit will focus on explaining how people catch infections and the global significance of these infections.

When not on The Worm Wagon their day to day research tries to understand the biology and immunology of parasite infection. Part of Sheena’s research is finding markers we can use to help diagnose patients who respond badly to infection and those who don’t. Professor Else concentrates more on vaccine research and how the damage caused by infection is regulated.

This research is vital considering the biggest killer of people under 50 is infection.

Images of Trichuris muris from Uta Rossler, Richard Grencis and Toby Starborg FLS, UoM.

Image of researchers by Mark Waugh, UoM.

For more bioscience news visit our facebook https://www.facebook.com/bbsrcnews. Oh and don’t forget to like it! 

Naegleria fowleri

AKA as the brain-eating amoeba.

These guys are known to withstand higher temperatures and are typically found in water.  This includes ponds, rivers, moist soil, lakes, HOT springs, and UNCHLORINATED POOLS.  

This parasite enters the host via nasal passage and feasts on the central nervous system (CNS) and brain which causes Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM) taking down it’s victim in less than 2 weeks 99% of the time. 

Initial symptoms include fevers, change in taste and/or smell, headaches, nausea and stiff neck.  Eventually as the infection progresses due to reproduction of the amoeba, the individual will experience photophobia (low tolerance for light), mental status changes and seizures leading them to a coma and die within 2 weeks upon contracting the disease. 

There is no known cure for the disease as of today and the affected hosts have a mortality rate of 98%, but there are survivors.  

There is no exact way to prevent yourself from possibly being infected besides avoiding untreated warm bodies of water.

N. fowleri has three stages: Cyst, trophozoite, and flagellate.

Here is the bastard in its trophozoite stage:

YES, I know.  They look as terrifying as they sound.  And here is what it would do to your brain:

Whole brain necrosis

Artsy pictures borrowed from brainsenemy on wordpress.

Are parasites controlling your brain?

The answer is probably, maybe yes. These creepy organisms have some killer tactics, and we learned some of their secrets from NatGeo blogger Ed Yong at TED2014. It was pretty much our favorite thing ever.

Here, an awfully unsavory look at the fascinating world of parasites >>

Victim I: Colorful brine shrimp

This brine shrimp (better known as a sea monkey) is prone to the powerful scheming of a parasitic tapeworm. The tapeworm hijacks the shrimp’s body, castrates it, drains it of nutrients, and turns its body bright red. You know, normal parasite stuff.

BUT WHY?!?

To get to a flamingo, of course. Flamingos spot (and eat) these bright red shrimp easily, and as you’ve surely guessed, these tapeworms can only reproduce inside a pink flamingo. Ah, romance.

Victim II: Zombie crickets

This poor, poor cricket is about to fall prey to a Gordian worm that’s hiding away in its body.

When the worm has had enough of its host, it’ll turn the cricket into a zombie and force it to drown in the nearest body of water. Then the giant worm will wriggle out and reproduce in the perfect watery conditions. Real charming way to thank a host.

Victim III: Us???

There’s a whole world of mind-controlling parasites – fungi, viruses and insects that manipulate their hosts. So…are there menacing parasites controlling our actions too?

“Given the widespread nature of such manipulations,” says Yong in his talk, “it would be completely implausible for humans to be the only species that weren’t similarly affected.”

To which we say:

Watch the full talk here »

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Photo one: The female Ascaris lumbricoides lays up to 200,000 eggs per day. CDC estimates 807 to 1221 million people are infected with Ascaris worldwide. 

http://scim.ag/1xGKqaB
Credit: Eye of Science / Science Source Photo two: The “heartworm” Dirofilaria immitis is a type of roundworm that spreads through mosquito bites.http://scim.ag/1xGKqaB Credit: Eye of Science / Science Source Gefällt mir

photo three: Called the “dog roundworm,” Toxocara canis primarily infects dogs and other canids. Fully grown, these worms measure anywhere from 9 to 18 cm.http://scim.ag/1xGKqaB

Credit: Eye of Science / Science Source photo four: Necator americanus attaches itself to the villi of the small intestine to feast on a host’s blood, causing abdominal pain, diarrhea, and weight loss.http://scim.ag/1xGKqaB Credit: David Scharf / Science Source source News from Science
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Marcus DeSieno on Merging the Old and New, Manifesting the Unseen, and Exploring the Vastness of the Universe with Photography 

One could say that the work of Marcus DeSieno is made up of ideas found at opposite ends of the spectrum – old and new photographic processes, science and art, the seen and unseen. He is mostly interested in the invisible, that is, bacteria and parasites, something that clearly manifests in two of his photographic series, “Cosmos” and “Parasites”.

In this interview, DeSieno talks to Lomography about the beginnings, ideas behind, and processes in creating the abovementioned series, exploring the universe around him through his craft, as well as his personal inspirations. http://bit.ly/1NomtQ6

Winning the Poo

Researchers at the University of Melbourne recently announced that they had sequenced the genome of Toxocara canis, which might not seem like significant news – scientists seem to sequencing a lot of genomes these days – but this particular feat merits a special hip-hip-poo-ray!

T. canis is a roundworm that causes disease in both humans and animals. Most at risk (brace yourself): Young children and puppies.

The parasitical worm, which can grow to roughly six inches, resides in the guts of dogs and other mammals. Untreated, the worm’s numbers can eventually pack the entire small intestine. Adult dogs can become very sick; for puppies, it can be fatal.

Young children are at risk because the parasite’s eggs (that’s a hatching worm depicted above) are excreted in fecal material, where they may be either inadvertently consumed or contaminate ingested foods. Interestingly, studies have shown that owning a pet does not seem to significantly increase the risk of T. canis infections, which suggests most of the risk comes from eggs already present in the environment.

T. canis eggs are not immediately infective after being passed by an animal, and they take a few weeks to develop. The eggs may linger in situ well after animal waste has been washed away naturally, which means an area that appears clear may actually remain contaminated.

Here are some tips to reduce risk:

  • Wash hands thoroughly after gardening or playing outside
  • Discourage young children from putting soil or dirty hands in their mouths
  • Cook meat thoroughly (the larval form of the parasite can infect tissues)
  • Deworm cats and dogs regularly to reduce potential infections
  • Pick up animal stool quickly, within 24 hours, before the eggs become infective

The sequencing of T. canis offers no immediate remedies, but the new knowledge could lead to new treatments and vaccines, said researchers. “This pathogen causes widespread outbreaks, predominantly in underprivileged communities and developing countries, so the more we know about these parasites the better equipped we are to combat their deadly effects,” said study author Robin Gasser.

Bacteria Turn Plants and Insects into Zombies

Parasites can turn plants into zombies and a team of scientists from the John Innes Center in Norwich, UK, has now discovered how they do it.

When plants are infected by parasitic bacteria called phytoplasmas, their flowers turn into leafy shoots, their petals turn green and they develop a mass of shoots called ‘witches’ brooms’. This transformation sterilizes the plant, while attracting the sap-sucking insects that carry the bacteria to new hosts.

“The plant appears alive, but it’s only there for the good of the pathogen,” says plant pathologist Saskia Hogenhout from the John Innes Center in Norwich, UK. “In an evolutionary sense, the plant is dead and will not produce offspring.”

“Many might baulk at the concept of a zombie plant because the idea of plants behaving is strange,” says David Hughes, a parasitologist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. “But they do, and since they do, why wouldn’t parasites have evolved to take over their behavior, as they do for ants and crickets?”

Flowers of Madagascar rosy periwinkle infected by a bacterium produce leaf-like petals and attract a leafhopper that serves as the pathogen’s next vector.

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GROSS SCIENCE IS THE BEST SCIENCE

I am so excited to announce that PBS Digital Studios’ newest science show, Gross Science, is live! Go subscribe

My friend Anna Rothschild loves stories about the more gruesome, repulsive, cringe-inducing, and yet incredibly cool parts of biology, and this series is going to be full of all the parasites, diseases, and medical oddities that you don’t know and love (yet). In the first episode, above, you’ll learn about a worm that mates in your abdomen and shoots out of your foot. A real full-body experience of existential horror!

If you want more, Anna’s videos have been featured on OKTBS before, but now you get to watch them every week, although I’d recommend maybe not eating while you do so.

Like she says, “You just can’t make this stuff up…”

“Summer and Tinkles: friends till the end! Group text the whole crew and motherfuckin send.”

Some Tinkles characters I designed. James designed the first half of the Tinkles characters and I designed the second half with his guidance. I looooooved working on this scene. We’ve gotta make toys!

See James’s here! http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-r-BuWNA5P4Y/VdGKoQj0kUI/AAAAAAAAAzQ/UuN6BdYUcAQ/s1600/Tinkles.jpg

Color credit to James Mc Dermott, Jason Boesh, Jack Cusumano, Elisa Phillips, and Kyle Kapps.

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Generalized demodicosis, or red mange, in a puppy. Most mammals have some species of Demodex mites living without problem on their skin, but in animals with malfunctioning immune systems, Demodex can overgrow and cause the following appearance. In more localized cases topicals can help to remove the overgrowth while the animal’s immune system improves, but in cases this severe, ivermectin treatments or heavily toxic dips are necessary.

This puppy is being treated with ivermectin and has made significant improvement, though treatment will take 2-3 months at minimum.

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GHOOOST SHAAARK - now with 50% more parasites
poor sick bro… but jawsome to see such an amazing ancient fish!

ghost sharks are also known as chimaera and are a cousin to our friends the sharks, breaking off some 400 million years ago.  They are isolated deep water fishes.
I do recommend taking a quick peek at the wiki about Ghost Sharks as they are quite different from the sharks that normally show up on this blog.  Their jaws are fused to their skulls and they have two outholes instead of just the cloaca, for instance.

 This is apparently what their egg case looks like :3