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. (Scroll down for chapter summaries.)
“[Drisdelle] digs deep (sorry about that) into the complex and sometimes even beneficial relationships between parasites and their hosts, which have induced numerous positive developments in agriculture, infrastructure, and even law enforcement (CSI, eat your heart out—oops). So for all those who skip over John Hurt’s big dinner scene in Alien, sink your teeth into this book, and some well-cured beef jerky, if you dare.” The Big Dogs: Wordplay by Adam Dunn. Nov 27, 2011.
“…the anecdotes used to demonstrate the essential properties of parasites and their impact on humans are both illustrative and entertaining. …those not familiar with parasites and the diseases they cause will certainly gain insight into these organisms and how they have influenced our lives.” Thomas B. Nutman, Nature Medicine, Nov 2011
“Drisdelle has written one of those rare books that is fun to read but does not skimp on scholarly rigor… . Some of those [unwelcome guests] whose visits we have endured might have been more welcome were they half as interesting as the guests we meet in Parasites: Tales of Humanity’s Most Unwelcome Guests.” Janice Moore, Bioscience Nov 2011.
“Parasites is a wonderful introduction to one of biology’s most fascinating lifestyles.” Mark Greener, Fortean Times: The Journal of Strange Phenomena Nov 2011.
“Drisdelle is not only an experienced parasitologist and scientific author, but a creative genius… . Drisdelle challenges the reader to reevaluate how parasites may have had a role in changing human history and possibly affecting human behaviors… . Her writing style and narrative is so entertaining that one will want to keep turning this book’s pages.” P. M. Watt, Choice Apr 2011.
“In this natural and social history of the organisms that can infect humans, parasitologist and author Drisdelle has created an irresistibly readable account of how parasites affect us and in turn affect human history… An infectious read (pun intended)!” Nancy Bent, Booklist, 2010.
“One of the signs of a truly interesting book is that when you put it down, you just want to sit and think. Rosemary Drisdelle’s new book is a variation… a fascinating read, but when you put it down, you just want to sit and scratch. And shower…” Quirks and Quarks, CBC Books Dec 20, 2010.
“Drisdelle treats her subject objectively. We can’t help but respect these unpleasant but marvellously well-adapted organisms… Anyone interested in a wide-ranging, informative and interesting tour of the parasite world will certainly get it in Parasites. ” Philip McIntosh, “Parasites by Rosemary Drisdelle,” Suite101.com
“Drisdelle has in her recent book Parasites: Tales of Humanity’s Most Unwelcome Guests provided a superb introduction to and overview of parasites in some of their many fascinating and historically significant forms. The Natural History Book Review Oct 26, 2010.
“Hookworm, roundworm, bed bugs, lice, trichinosis, sleeping sickness, scabies: these are some of the parasites and diseases that Drisdelle ably describes with mirth, occasional poetry, and an infectious scientific fascination, where the human story is an essential element of the natural history.” SciTech Book News, September 2010
“An interesting guide to what’s eating you, literally! Not for the squeamish!” Ian Paulsen, The Guardian (UK) . The Birdbooker Report Sept 27, 2010.
“Drisdelle describes biological processes lovingly and beautifully. . . Her description of the human body as a suitcase, “a packer and shipper of parasite relocation’, is wonderfully apt . . . read Drisdelle for an education.” Anne Hardy, Times Literary Supplement (TLS) July 2, 2010.
“Drisdelle has made one of societies most dreaded and often ignored entities accessible as well as enjoyable, while unearthing an exciting part of our history as well as our future.” Richard Saffern, Bedbug.com May 5, 2010.
Chapter One: Ambush
Parasites live on us – or in us – and they make us sick, right? Well sometimes, 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 pipes.
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.
More chapter descriptions to follow…