parasites: death comes in small packages

parasites: death comes in small packages

When studying the life sciences, there are a lot of in-depth concepts to take in. Depending on the the type of science you are studying, biology vs. evolution, for example, you may even have to learn a handful of mathematical formulas to fully appreciate the material. Here, we are just having a light-hearted overview of the life sciences, so a light serving of sativa will do just fine.

In my experience, sativa helps me to not get lost in wordy texts (reading that is not broken up by graphics/tables or formulas) and keep my mind sharp and able to take in all relevant information. Grinding about 60mg (less than 1/4 of a 1g bud) of sativa and smoking just a small pinch of that for over a 3-5hr period is perfect for maintaining a healthy attention span for learning.

Black Flower Science Co. does not claim to be a medical professional and does not offer recommendations as a substitute for medical advice. All advice and recommendations are based on personal experience of the benefits of medical marijuana. If you are experiencing severe or declining mental health symptoms, please seek the advice of a medical professional.

Original Publication Date: November 2, 2015

2015 has become the year of Giardia duodenalis for me.

The first time I heard of this flagellate was in the course EEMB 111 “Animal Parasitology” at the University of California, Santa Barbara. This class was chock-full of parasites that seemed as if they’d come straight out of someone’s messed up nightmares.

What made it even better was that quite a few of the worst parasites resided in East Africa – this was the quarter before I went to study in Tanzania. Joy.

​The ones I was most afraid of didn’t even include G. duodenalis, rather, Dracunculis medinensisTrypanosoma brucei rhodiense, and, of course, Plasmodium spp.

D. medinensis, also known as the “Guinea worm,” is horrifying. Although it mainly resides in West Africa and the Middle East, I was still afraid of being infected, given the graphic nature of how I learned about it. Infection occurs through drinking unfiltered/unpurified water.

Once it’s ingested, the worm emerges from the intermediate host, a copepod (small crustacean), and the female grows within the definitive human host for about 1 year. Once she matures, she migrates in a downward direction through the body, and ultimately creates a hole through which she pokes her head out and ruptures, releasing larval worms.

The worm pokes it head out of your leg after it’s lived inside of you for a year.

Dracunculis medinensis being removed. | Stanford

T. b. rhodiense is a hemoflagellate (flagellate that resides in the circulatory system) that causes African sleeping sickness. It’s a zoonotic (animal to human) disease, transferred through the evil tsetse flies. (Tsetse flies are huge, and are basically not afraid of being swatted at. And their bite stings.)

What happens is, the flagellate crosses the blood-brain barrier and proceeds to wreak havoc in the central nervous system. If untreated, you slowly deteriorate mentally, fall into a coma, and die.

I got bit by several tsetse flies while in the Serengeti – every time I saw one I thought “This is the end.” Luckily, I survived. #ISurvivedTheTseTse

Finally, the Plasmodium spp. Hemoflagellates that cause malaria. The Plasmodium vector is an insect that I’ve always been afraid of, whether it could have possibly given me a big, itchy, red bump or West Nile: the mosquito.

The mosquito experiences some behavioral modification based on the developmental stage of the parasite. If it’s still young, the mosquito is not as dedicated to biting you. If it’s closer to maturity, the mosquito will put its life on the line to suck your blood.

The reason I’m not focusing on a particular species of Plasmodium is because there are three that can infect you with various forms of malaria: P. vivaxP. malariaeP. ovale and P. falciparum. Symptoms include headaches, muscle pains, anemia, cold and hot spells, and much more. Severity of these symptoms and relapses depend on the type of infection/species.

All I can say is, thank goodness for mosquito nets.

Parasitism is defined as a symbiotic interaction in which one individual benefits at the other’s expense. Some manifestations of this lifestyle are more accurately defined as predation, since they can occasionally end in the death of the host.

It’s estimated that 30-50% of all described species are parasitesFifty percent?! Half of all known life thrives on killing or tormenting other living beings.

We do know that parasitic creatures must have evolved from non-parasitic creatures. The first animal could not have possibly survived in a lifestyle that requires dependence on another animal.

I typically love the concept of speciation, but, when it comes to parasites how is this good or ecologically useful in any way?

Giardia duodenalis (also known as G. lamblia and G. intestinalis). | CDC

Let’s bring Giardia duodenalis back into the picture. When you are infected with Giardia, it feels like death. To put it nicely, you feel as if you’re defecating your life away. The first time I got it was in Serengeti, and the second time was in my training to be a Wilderness Therapy instructor in Utah.

Now, we’re still not sure if it was Giardia, but my symptoms were identical to what I had in Tanzania – the only thing is, recovery time was a lot shorter.

Regardless, when you are inhabited by something that gives you endless diarrhea or when a fly lays its eggs in your dog’s skin, only to have them crawl out of holes his back weeks later, you start to wonder, “Why the hell does this creature exist?”

I gotta be honest with you, I have no clue. That said, I’d love to hear your input on the ecological and/or biological usefulness of parasites!

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