Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

FOUNDATIONS OF PARASITOLOGY

Textbook cover copy

FOUNDATIONS OF PARASITOLOGY cover art suggests the diversity of parasitic organisms, the historical significance of parasitic diseases, and the often-complicated relationships involving parasites. Snails are first intermediate hosts for virtually all trematodes, whose life cycles are dependent on intact food webs and other ecological interactions. Biomphalaria glabrata, the cover’s central figure, is a New World snail vector for schistosomiasis, one of humanity’s major parasitic afflictions, and one that also is linked closely to agricultural practices. As is the case with many parasites, an understanding of the role played by intermediate hosts such as B. glabrata is crucial to any control efforts. The bedbug, Cimex hemipterus, represents a pest whose global importance is increasing, probably due to insecticide resistance, thus reminding us that many, and some believe most, parasites have the potential for evolving defenses against compounds traditionally used to control them. The beautiful Giardia agilis, from amphibians, reminds us that our own parasites, e.g., Giardia duodenalis, often are part of a larger spectrum of related species. The aspidobothrean Cotylaspsis insignis appears highly magnified, but faint in the background, almost as if important but remembered from a distant past. Such imagery is valid; the bibliography of those who’ve worked on aspidobothreans reads almost like a historical record of parasitology. Finally, the sunfish, a common denizen of fresh waters, is both intermediate and definitive host for dozens of parasites, a reminder that parasitism is the most common way of life: every free-living species that has been studied extensively has been shown to be infected, usually with multiple other species.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Parasitological symbolism

I just finished writing the copy for the back cover of the new (8th) edition of FOUNDATIONS OF PARASITOLOGY. The 7th edition had a number of parasites and vectors assembled into a rather artistic montage, and so does the 8th edition, although with different organisms. The cover copy dealt with the symbolism of those parasites: what they brought to mind when I saw them. This experience makes me wonder what other parasites might be used in a similar fashion, and of course the answer is: all of them. Obviously some would be a stretch, in the sense that a whole lot of history, economics, sociology, and human-to-human interactions might not come immediately to mind when you see a picture of them, but others (Xenopsylla cheopis, for example) would release a flood of such material from a well educated parasitologist. I'd be interested in your contributions! - JJ