I did mention in my last blog post on this subject that the 5 reasons I gave for maintaining parasitology and parasitologists were part of a much longer list. The time has come to now give you five more reasons….
Parasites modulate the immune systems of their hosts to potentiate their own survival
So what? – This can be exploited for our benefit. Some parasite products can be used therapeutically, for example to reduce symptoms associated with inflammatory bowel diseases, or certain allergies. We need to know how to do this more effectively.
Parasites can manipulate host behaviour to complete their own life-cycle
So what? – Parasites are drivers, and part, of the global food chain. They quite often ‘want‘ to be eaten. Their manipulation of host behaviour facilitates predator-prey relationships and helps maintain stability of wildlife populations that are connected to human activities. We need to know how best to exploit this fact to ensure sustainable ecosystems.
There are still no (commercially available) vaccines for any parasitic infection of humans
So what? – Given that drugs and other interventions are only partly effective, we still need to work on vaccinations as a strategy to remove those parasites that directly impact on the health of human populations.
Parasites are put under selection pressure from human activities
So what? If parasites adapt their biology and/or ecology as a result of interventions, and/or anthropogenic environmental pressures we need to know in order to plan mitigation strategies.
Hundreds of millions of people carry undiagnosed parasitic infections at any one time
So what? If we are ever to realise universal health coverage then we need to find solutions to the lack of diagnostic capacity in health systems where the populations are affected by parasitic infections.
I am an epidemiologist based at a UK Higher Education establishment (Durham University, if you are interested). My research interests are primarily within the domain of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). I believe that the only way we can effectively tackle complex problems affecting populations living in tropics and sub-tropics is through trans-disciplinary collaboration. My working definition of transdisciplinary is undertaking research alongside so-called 'stakeholders' - groups and individuals who do not call themselves 'researchers' but whose experiences and knowledge can be used to great effect when combined with the experiences and knowledge of the research community. You can read my online CV at the link below.