Being a Parasite Vector Isn't All Puppies and Unicorns


16 Responses to “Being a Parasite Vector Isn't All Puppies and Unicorns”

  1. JoshuaZ says:

    So if we could make mosquitoes that were immune or strongly resistant to malaria shouldn’t they outcompete the malaria bearing mosquitoes?

  2. A New Challenger says:

    As a fan of alliteration, I must congratulate you on “parasitic Peter Pan.”

  3. Anonymous says:

    The flies which transmit sleeping sickness are similarly choked by the protozoan parasite that causes it. They have to eat more frequently and have longer meals, so they become better vectors.

  4. Anonymous says:

    For those who haven’t, I recommend reading Zimmer’s “Parasite Rex”; google books or Amazon. I enjoyed it while hiking in Borneo, even if it did make me a bit paranoid/squeamish…

  5. Maggie Koerth-Baker says:


    Keep an eye on National Geographic News, then. I’ve got an article that should be up there tomorrow (I believe) that will interest you.

  6. Chrs says:

    @#10, my thoughts exactly. If carrying the parasite is a disadvantage, it’s possible that engineering mosquitoes (which are usually at a disadvantage to start with due to long-term lab breeding) could actually work.

  7. tuckels says:

    Your articles continue to be wonderful, Maggie. (Even when they’re full of parasites and hairless animals).

  8. Brainspore says:

    As long as we’re hearing so much about parasites I’d love to read a bit about the fungi that inspired my moniker. Too similar to the entry on zombie crabs, perhaps?

  9. Maggie Koerth-Baker says:


    As I hit “Save” it occurred to me that maybe I’m making myself out to be a little creepy.

    Tomorrow: Fluffy kittens & feel-good facts.

  10. Takuan says:


  11. Anonymous says:

    I hope now people will stop hating mosquitoes and focus on the disease. Our poor flying buddies are not evil, they’re just trying to deal with malaria the best way they can.

  12. nyrath says:

    I seem to recall that the parasite Toxoplasmosis causes a type of brain damage in its mouse host. The damage makes the mouse fatally attracted to cat urine. This has apparently come about because Toxoplasma only reproduces in the gut of cats.

    So again, for the poor mouse parasite vector, it isn’t all puppies and unicorns.

  13. michaeldelves says:

    Hi. I work at Imperial on Malaria you must have been talking to my colleagues. You’re right to say that malaria parasite infection puts the mosquito at a disadvantage. The flip-side of my colleagues’ research is that this shows that producing half-baked antimalarials (or not taking the correct dose), whilst reducing the infection in the mosquito actually makes it fitter, happier, live longer and so infect more people.

  14. Brainspore says:

    @ Nyrath #5:

    I don’t know if there has been much legit study on the subject, but some have postulated that many of the so-called “cat ladies” (who compulsively collect as many of the animals as possible) are also victims of Toxoplasmosis. It would go a long way toward explaining how anyone could live among the stench created by hundreds of poorly-kept felines.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Not sure if this is of interest but there’s the suggestion of the reverse: that being infected with malaria can attract mosquitos.

  16. Nadreck says:

    This is why I’ve always felt that anti-malarial research should concentrate on curing the mosquitoes instead of the people. After all, if you cure one species you cure the other and you can try all sorts of radical procedures without having to muck about with informed consent forms for the test subjects. You get more generations in a shorter amount of time to see how things turn out in the long term too.

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