Parasites: Tales of Humanity’s Most Unwelcome Guests
Parasites: Tales of Humanity’s Most Unwelcome Guests sorts
out the human race’s motley crew of parasitic companions (2010,
University of California Press). This social and natural history
explores their earthly haunts: prehistoric kingdoms, tropical jungles,
insect guts, water treatment plants etc. and examines the socially
and historically important things they are doing there. The reader
also visits their bodily haunts – their usual turf in intestines, bladders,
skin, muscle, blood, and brains. The two lines of inquiry come together
to reveal what parasites are really doing in our world.
Chapter One: Ambush
Parasites live on us – or in us – and they make us sick, right? Well some
times, but not always, and they are not so simple. The other roles they play
in our lives are often much more subtle, but they can change history. Have
you ever wondered what a parasite might have had to do with the famous
Battle of Jericho? Chapter one visits Rahab, the prostitute, in Bronze Age
Jericho to ponder what may have been living in her water supply.
From the Middle East we go to Africa in the late 1800s and explore the
tsetse belt with famous explorer Henry Morton Stanley, then turn to
Southeast Asia and the dangerous labyrinthian Ho Chi Minh Trail during the
Vietnam War. Finally, stepping back in time once more, it’s intriguing to
consider whether parasites followed in the wake of Captain James Cook as
he explored the globe aboard the Resolution.
Chapter Two: Market of Peril
When we think about parasites, we often think in terms of them eating us, or
at least parts of us. But it’s also true that we eat them: that’s how many of
the parasites that live in people get into people in the first place. Looking
back in time, it’s clear that people have been tremendously helpful to many
parasites. Even today, we’re making it easy for various parasites to infect
more people than ever before! And you thought your food was safe.
In Chapter two, take a walk through the local market and find out how
people have added worms to pork, beef, and even greens. Find out why
sheep and sheepdogs can be a bad combination for the shepherd, and
consider whether raw fish is worth the risk. Have you ever wondered why,
exactly, we shouldn’t let flies walk on our food? The giant fly at the market
fills you in.
Chapter 3: Drinking Water Advisory
A trip down the North Saskatchewan River, not by boat, but bobbing on a
Cryptosporidium parvum oocyst, opens up the world of surface water and
water treatment from a parasitic point of view. Our unconventional watercraft
reveals why drinking water everywhere is plagued by parasites, and gives
us a tour of water treatment from a place a real boat could never go: inside
The events of the 2001 cryptosporidiosis outbreak in North Battleford,
Saskatchewan have been extensively documented. They reveal just how
neatly the natural world, ignorance, human error, and politics can cooperate
to deliver our Cryptosporidium oocyst to a susceptible human host.