One of the more interesting, albeit the most difficult classes of the semester, is parasitology. The vast scope of creatures that can use both animals and humans as hosts is incredible. This infatuation extends into the laboratory, where we get to examine tissues infested with parasites. Each and every day in lab there are a host of awesome specimens (or nasty depending on your point of view). To name a few, so far we have seen sections of cat brain that had a few worms inside of it, skin that had Cuterebra burrowing inside of the tissue, and many jars full of worms.
While I have performed my fair share of Snap tests in the past, our lab day devoted to them turned out be a major anomaly. The specimens provided came from a laboratory, and they were supposed to be infected with heartworm. Expecting a positive result, my friends and I ran the test. Surprisingly, the test came back negative. In fact, every group’s test came back heartworm negative. Apparently, nothing like this has ever happened in the 30 years or so that our professor has been teaching the course.
Another task for our parasitology group is to develop a collection of arthropods. Since the weather is still rather cold down here, not many ticks or other arthropods are showing up right now, so we have gone through all kinds of extremes to obtain them. During a pathology lab, a horse had died and its stomach was filled with bot fly larvae. Needless to say, every lab group added a bot fly to their collection that day. One afternoon I found a mosquito floating around in my car, and I just had to get it for the collection. Using a large fridge magnet, I was able to successfully trap the mosquito without squishing it.
While it may be the bane of my existence, parasitology is a fascinating and useful subject. Many people don’t like it, but for some reason, I am one of few who can leave the lab without feeling like I have something crawling all over me.