The Parasite Files

The Loom

Category archives for The Parasite Files

I’m sure you’d like to pretend that you have nothing in common with a tapeworm. A tapeworm starts off as an egg which then develops into a cyst. Inside the cyst is a ball-shaped creature with hooks that it can use to crawl around its host before growing into an adult. Many species are made…

It feels like a homecoming: I’m among hundreds of people who live for parasites. I arrived in Arlington Texas this afternoon to attend the annual meeting of the American Society of Parasitologists. I’m going to give a talk tomorrow about the public awareness of parasitology, talking about my long-term relationship with the beasties in books,…

Parasite Rock

In a couple weeks I head to Texas to the annual meeting of the American Society of Parasitologists to talk about parasites in pop culture. The symposium is called, “Parasitology: Public awareness through literature, art, and film.” Our panel has lots of creepy movie clips in store, plus other sorts of media including books and…

Stockholm Syndrome For Moths

A caterpillar’s life is not an easy one. The plants that it eats make toxins to make it sick. Birds swoop in to pluck it away and feed it to their chicks. But the most horrific threat comes from wasps that use caterpillars as hosts for their young. These parasitoid wasps are among my favorite…

Honeybees Lost in a Viral World

It’s fun to write about discoveries, but mysteries are important too. In my latest column for Wired.com, I explore the mysterious death of honeybees, and the trouble scientists are having pinning down a culprit. Honey Bees Give Clues on Virus Spread

Last year I wrote about the emerald cockroach wasp, Ampulex compressa, which injects venom into cockroaches to turn them into zombie hosts for their parasitic offspring. (More posts on Ampulex here.) The scientists I wrote about have been trying to figure out what exactly the venom does to the nervous system of their victims, and…

Carrying Ancient History In The Gut

It is a day to write about Giardia, and I am happy to say that I cannot do so from firsthand experience. Friends of mine have suffered infections of Giardia in their gut, but they haven’t been terribly forthcoming about the details. It’s not fun, they assure me, and it can last for months. Unpleasant…

Tokyo and its Parasites Beckon…

Science Made Cool writes from Tokyo, describing the world’s only parasite museum. Someday I’ll get there… Sadly, the keychain with the sushi worm embedded inside is not for sale online… Update: Mark asks whether there’s an American museum in Maryland. It’s a collection, not a museum. I write about my visit there in Parasite Rex.…

Imagining My Homicidal Liver

Parasitoid wasps (or rather, one group of them called the Ichneumonidae) are the subject of one of Charles Darwin’s most famous quotations: “I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars.” Scientists have learned a…

Parasites as Neuropharmacologists

Reports are coming out this morning on a new study on one of the Loom’s favorite organisms: Toxoplasma gondii, the single-celled parasite that lives in roughly half of all people on Earth and has the ability to alter the behavior of its host. I reported on the research last June in the New York Times,…