How to Care for Six Horrifying Parasites

My Filarial Worms
P Barber/Getty

Pets often depend on their masters to keep things tidy and filarial worms are no exception. Sure, Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi and B. timori all need your love, but they also require full use of your lymphatic system. You use its conduits to maintain a proper fluid balance between blood and tissue, but the parasites need that space to produce millions of microscopic larvae.

As a result, you can probably expect a certain amount of clogging down there -- sort of like if your cats decided to live in your air conditioning vents. Only instead of a stuffy room, the worms' living conditions tend to result in painful, disfiguring swelling in the legs and genitals -- also known as elephantiasis. The good news is that a rigorous personal hygiene regime can keep the swelling down. But even if it doesn't, isn't a little discomfort and a scrotum the size of a beanbag chair worth it to have millions of friends 24/7?

It's all about sharing. You can pick up your very own starter filarial worm through an infected mosquito bite. Infection takes 7-21 days.

Other selections: If elephantiasis is a deal breaker, be sure to consider the intestinal raccoon roundworm Baylisascaris or an internal colony of Schistosomiasis. You can recruit these fine parasites by eating raccoon feces or swimming in contaminated fresh water, respectively.

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.