How to Care for Six Horrifying Parasites

Wandering Strongyloides
© Lester V. Bergman/CORBIS

You know the old saying: " If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it's yours. If it doesn't, it never was." Yes it applies to grown children returning home on holidays, but it also applies to the roundworm known as Strongyloides stercoralis.

Normally, your pet S. stercoralis carries out a very straight-forward relationship. In its dirt-loving infective form, it enters your skin and tracks a long, winding road through your lymphatic and repertory systems, till it finally reaches your small intestines. Here, the adult females make their home and, for up to five years, they pump out larvae. The young then leave home via your excrement to explore the world.

But empty bowel syndrome isn't a forgone conclusion with your roundworms, because sometimes the growing larvae don't actually leave. If you "happen" to have a case of constipation, they might wind up deciding to get to know their host a little better instead. This means a trip through the intestines wall and a weaving journey to such destinations as the lungs and liver.

Other selections: The small intestine isn't the only place to host your parasitic guests. Consider raising some Acanthamoeba keratitis in your eyeballs or strap on a few ticks for a chance at lucking out with some Babesiosis.

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.