Getting up close with nematode parasites 

Parasites have some stylish lifestyles. They figure out how to enjoy living inside another host; so comfortably that they can not do without. This starts to sound like a guest who never leaves – and they are a burden. Have you ever heard of “elephantiasis”.. When limbs enlarge to unimaginable extent (elephant like). The category it falls in is called “lymphatic filariasis”.. It means it affects the lymphatic system and is caused by “filaria” a name for the actual nematode. This is a terrible disease and more needs to be done to understand these filaria worms if we are going to eliminate them. 

So how do you get the disease? Very simply; just a bite from a mosquito. Imagine, just because you live in an area which has the vectors and the parasites and for no fault of yours; you are injected with this crazy parasite. More needs to be done to wipe these things off the face of the planet. 

To study this disease in the lab, a common model system is used – which affects cats and dogs. It’s called “Brugia pahangi” – many drugs are tested to find something that will kill the adult form. You have both male and females and mostly drugs are targeted to kill the females (they lay all the micro-filaria worms). 

I lay my hands to a live male of “Brugia pahangi” and it’s beautiful. It’s a very very long nematode. Thin and slender and very active. I mean it; just watch the video. Also, strangely the way a male is identified is by looking at the crock screw like curve at the tip. The mouth part has a little bud. Also, you will be able to see all the muscles as well. 

So next time you see a tiny little thing wriggling around – imagine the catastrophy these little things can cause inside the body. More must be done to eliminate these parasitic diseases. The first step involves watching!! 


Update: inspired by this post – I have also been exploring the burden of parasitic worms on development and social consequences. Glad to find the “worm index” aligning the cost of parasitic infections on society.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. laksiyer says:

    This is simply great. It is amazing how easily these chaps fold on themselves unlike my garden hose. I wonder if they ever knot, these nematodes. Manu, we need a 40x lens :), if it is not too demanding.

  2. Manu Prakash says:

    @Laksiyer: I agree – I already have a solution for a 40x objective. What fascinates me the most is how cylindrical and flexible and loooong these guys are. it’s phenomenal how they turn; and they are sensing all the time. This is an un-natural environment for them; since they are supposed to be inside the body and I can only imagine in the body this motility allows them to fight attacks by our immune system..

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