trichinella

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The Sausage Duel of 1865,

In the mid 19th century Rudolph Virchow was a leading man of science and intellect in Europe.  Among the many hats he wore he was a physician, biologist, anatomist, pathologist, and anthropologist.  He was also deeply intertwined in German politics, being a social reformer and co-founder of the liberal party.  In 1865 his greatest rival was none other than the great Prussian Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck.  Virchow greatly criticized Bismarck’s policies, especially his excessive military budget.  In 1865 Bismarck was so angered by Virchow’s opposition that he challenged him to a duel.

As challenged Virchow had the right to select what weapons would be used.  Virchow was not a fighting man, however as a physician, biologist, and anatomist there was one weapon he was well acquainted with; science.

Virchow’s decision was that he and Bismarck would each consume a pork sausage which was randomly selected from two sausages; one regular sausage, and one sausage that was purposely infected with the larvae of a trichinella parasite.  He who consumed the untainted sausage would be fine, however he who consumed the tainted sausage would suffer a terrible bout of the runs that could last for days.  Other symptoms would include  nausea, heartburn, dyspepsia, muscle weakness, swollen eyes, stroke, and neurological disorders.  If left untreated death can occur within 4 -6 weeks.

Otto von Bismarck was a born soldier who probably hoped to die in glorified combat.  However when it came to the possibility of dying a slow death while lying in a puddle of his own feces, Bismarck declined.

  • Domain: Eukarya
  • Supergroup: Unikonta
  • Group: Ecdyosozoa
  • Phylum: Nematoda

Trichinella is a nematode that causes Trichinosis and is the main reason pork is considered “unclean” by those adhering to the dietary requirements of Judaism or Islam. Once encysted larvae are ingested, they develop into adults, mate, and produce more larvae. The larvae migrate to the muscles where they encyst and may cause muscle damage. Encysted Trichinella cause host cells to generate elastic membranes capable of housing growing larvae, and induces the host to form blood vessels to assure a stable food supply to the parasite. 

Photograph from: jurnalmm.ro

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Adventures in Parasitology

Strongyloides stercoralis

S. stercoralis is a nematode parasite that will enter the body through the skin of the feet or legs (symptom known as “ground itch”). It inhabits the GI and pulmonary tracts; one of the most common symptoms of an infection with this parasite is persistent diarrhea. 

Trichinella spiralis

This is one of my favorite nematodes. You can become infected with Trichinella by eating raw or undercooked pork meat. The larvae of this parasite will migrate to the striated muscle tissue and form what are called “nurse cells”, encysting themselves in the tissue. 

Hi! I stumbled upon your blog yesterday while I was taking a break from studying for my parasitology exam. I was goofing around typing random parasites as urls and I ended up here. So today while I was studying for my lab exam I remembered your blog and I decided to send you a picture of a Trichinella.

I know this is a little weird. Sorry if I creep you out.

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Nothing like a few parasites to bring a smile to my face. Thanks! (*o*)