The Parasite Files

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The Great Escape

At the Loom we believe that the path to wisdom runs through the Land of Gross. We do not show you pictures of worms crawling out of frog noses merely to ruin your lunch. We do not urge you to check out these freaky videos of worms crawling out of frog mouths and fish gills…

Gross, and then really gross

Even I have my limits.

Loyal readers need no introduction to this bit of entomological “Faces of Death.” Others who think this must be some sort of hoax, read

Cockroach Zombies Go Cable

The Discovery Channel picked up my

Answers to your parasite questions

My this one from Gal Haspel, who spent seven years in grad school contemplating the sinister glory of Ampulex compressa. Update 2/15: Gal is now fielding questions in the comment thread, discussing new research on matters such as how the wasp knows where in the brain to put its stinger. Fascinating stuff. Please post any…

The Wisdom of Parasites

I collect tales of parasites the way some people collect Star Trek plates. And having filled an entire book with them, I thought I had pretty much collected the whole set. But until now I had somehow missed the gruesome glory that is a wasp named Ampulex compressa. As an adult, Ampulex compressa seems like…

The Return of the Puppet Masters

Are brain parasites altering the personalities of three billion people? The question emerged a few years ago, and it shows no signs of going away. I first encountered this idea while working on my book Parasite Rex. I was investigating the remarkable ability parasites have to manipulate the behavior of their hosts. The lancet fluke…

A Prize Bug

This year’s Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology was announced this morning. Barry Marshall and J. Robin Warren won for discovering that ulcers can be caused not by stress or genes but by a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (shown here). As my fellow Corantean, Derek Lowe, observes, this story follows the classic arc from, "You’re…

Sickness All Around

I’ve got two stories in tomorrow’s New York Times about getting sick. One is about malaria. I’ve always been fascinated by how parasites can manipulate their hosts for their own ends, and much of my book Parasite Rex is dedicated to explaining how this creepy remote control works. I’ve come across many new examples from…

Battle of the Hole Punchers

One of the most exciting lines of research in evolution today is how parasites have become so good at making us sick. A case in point appears in the latest issue of Genome Biology (full text of paper here). It appears that parasites have stolen one of our best lines of defense and now use…