Month: June 2019

Do schistosomes practice the art of host-manipulation?

Biomphalaria snail shedding schistosome cercariae into the water. Copyright Trustees of the Natural History Museum Parasites manipulating host behaviour is not a new story. There are lots of examples of parasites and parasitoids making their poor hosts do the most extraordinary things: grasshoppers purposefully jumping into water and drowning themselves, rats running towards cat urine smells, cockroaches walking into predator wasp lairs etc. This level of skilled “mind-control” would leave even our most talented illusionists agog with admiration and horror. From a public and veterinary health point of view, the concept of host manipulation is of particular interest when...

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Undocumented biodiversity of marine Oomycota is found in the Arctic

(Picture by robynm via Pixabay) We are interested in understanding the relevance of microbes, in particular in the Arctic Ocean. We know that microbes are the base of all marine food webs and make up more than 90% of all biomass in the ocean. Microbes are consumed by zooplankton, which are consumed by fish, which are consumed by whales – essentially, if there are no microbes there no whales. And when whales and other large organisms die, they are again consumed by microbes, closing the loop. Sudden Oak Death US Dept Agriculture We recently turned our attention to exploring...

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The changing narrative of MRSA infection control in the United States

© ksass / Getty Images / iStock A quote often attributed to Winston Churchill aptly observed “The Americans can always be trusted to do the right thing, once all other possibilities have been exhausted.” This observation has never been truer when one looks at our approach to the control of MRSA. Through a series of policy iterations, the United States appears to have progressed from MRSA being a serious public health problem which has to be controlled, to one which we do not have control and usually it “is no big deal”. The time-tested strategy for containing an MRSA...

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Scientists to be proud of

(Photo by Steve Johnson from Pexels) If enhancing diversity is generally perceived as progress in science, objections are still raised for the fact that this may represent a process of ‘social engineering’ that artificially favors certain individuals and not others – as underlined by the controversy on the suspended CERN physicist Alessandro Strumia. Science can be a highly serendipitous process, where inventions and discoveries may occur at the intersection of pure chance and intent. In a research environment where the interpersonal exchanges are more complex, and draw from a wider array of experiences and backgrounds, successful outcomes may be...

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Fleas are ready for a climate change

I need to make a confession. Fleas were not my favorite parasites by far. When the phone was ringing some ten years ago and questions about fleas kept coming – I was not amused. Why? The questions were simple, just asking “what are the fleas on dogs and cats these days?”. Holding a title of the veterinary parasitologist at the University of Sydney, Australia, I felt obliged to respond. So I did. It is the cat flea – was my answer. Ten years ago a thought was spreading that the fleas on dogs and cats are being replaced by...

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