What's Eating You? - People and Parasites

What's Eating You? - People and Parasites

Eugene H. Kaplan

Language: English

Pages: 226

ISBN: 0691141401

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In What's Eating You? Eugene Kaplan recounts the true and harrowing tales of his adventures with parasites, and in the process introduces readers to the intimately interwoven lives of host and parasite.

Kaplan has spent his life traveling the globe exploring oceans and jungles, and incidentally acquiring parasites in his gut. Here, he leads readers on an unforgettable journey into the bizarre yet oddly beautiful world of parasites. In a narrative that is by turns frightening, disgusting, and laugh-out-loud funny, Kaplan describes how drinking contaminated water can cause a three-foot-long worm to burst from your arm; how he "gave birth" to a parasite the size and thickness of a pencil while working in Israel; why you should never wave a dead snake in front of your privates; and why fleas are attracted to his wife. Kaplan tells stories about leeches feasting on soldiers in Vietnam; sea cucumbers with teeth in their anuses that seem to encourage the entry of symbiotic fish; the habits of parasites that cause dysentery, river blindness, and other horrifying diseases--and much, much more. Along the way, he explains the underlying science, including parasite evolution and host-parasite physiology.

Informative, frequently lurid, and hugely entertaining, this beautifully illustrated book is a must-read for health-conscious travelers, and anyone who has ever wondered if they picked up a tapeworm from that last sushi dinner.

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bitterness of the “tonic” is its major ingredient, quinine, the traditional antimalarial medication (it provides protection against malaria, but the alcohol probably suffices to protect against all other parasites). A day later, I was able to stagger into the local physician’s office. I stood at the door, weakly holding on to the frame. “Dr. Sugar (that was his real name), I’m sick.” He took one look at me and said, in his Viennese accent, “Ven vas you in der Old City?” “How did you know?” I

presence by an almost-suffocating aroma. But the stench was like perfume to a class of animals that converged on the fecal mounds. A horde of insects, remotely related relatives of copepods (and as ubiquitous) devoured the feces and their parasitic contents. Over more time some of the eggs cracked open and freed the larvae in the insect gut. They burrowed into the insect’s body and underwent a second larval stage. Then the insect was eaten by a carnivorous terrestrial mammal—not a fish. A

percent bovine serum [plasma from the blood of a calf]. One cannot help but think that there is some mysterious substance in the blood that adds that indefinable “life essence.”) I was ready to “plate out” the skin epithelial cells. A few were removed and dropped into sterile medium in a dish. After many hours, isolated cells became visible. They coalesced into a sheet of epithelial cells in a day or two. I became adept at maintaining this tissue culture. RUSSIAN DOLLS The next step was to

require investing total energy for as long as it takes. With this in mind, I carefully searched for the appropriate host animal. It would have to be abundant and easily obtained, and as full of parasites as possible. The cockroach beckoned. The dark streets abounded with them. But to my surprise, they were not so easily obtained. Waving long, sensitive antennae, with eyes that efficiently sense movement, they are elusive when approached from the front. At the posterior, longhornlike cercae

surprise souvenir—diarrhea. This condition persisted for five years, despite many visits to physicians. Forgetting my previous protozoan embarrassment, I diagnosed the condition as giardiasis. Giardia swims through the intestinal river by means of eight undulating, hairlike flagella, adhering to the gut wall with two suckerlike disks. Between the disks and the flagella, it is impressive for a one-celled organism. Behind the disks are two eyelike nuclei that, combined with its oval shape, make it

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