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Six Horrifying Parasites.

Houseguests from Hell: 6 Horrifying Parasites Guaranteed to Overstay Their Welcome.

When it comes to parasites, it's all about perspective. You may call a lifetime of growing and feeding off another organism lazy, but we call it opportunistic. In fact, these life-sucking go-getters have managed to carve out some of the most ingenious survival strategies in the world. By some estimates, parasites outnumber free-living species nearly four to one. So show some respect. After all, mooching isnt' as easy as it looks.

Cymothoa exigua: Biting Your Tongue, So You Don't Have To.

When fish mommies want to strike fear in the hearts of their misbehaving fish babies, we suspect they draw on the chilling animal savagery of the Cymothoa exigua. As a youngster, this nasty little parasitic crustacean begins a life of terror by fighting its way through the gills of its fish host of choice, the snapper. Once there, it attaches itself to the fish's tongue and begins feeding on the rich blood pumping through the artery underneath. As the parasite grows, it drinks more blood and eventually causes the tongue to atrophy and disintegrate. But does the Cymothoa mouth-squatter leave its fishy friend tongueless? Of course not. It does any craft parasite would do and replaces the old tongue with its own body. The fish is actually able to use the parasite just like a normal tongue, only it has to share all the food with its new friend. Yes, the whole foster-tongue thing seems like a pretty nice gesture on the part of ol' Cymothoa - until you remember there was nothing wrong with the fish's old tongue in the first place.

Previously on Neatorama: When Exigua Got Your Tongue, It's For Real

Screwworms: Causing Problems Right out of the Hatch.

The screwworm isn't really a worm at all; it's a type of fly. But if living under a false name were the worst of the screwworm's misdeeds, you can be sure it wouldn't appear in this story. No, this parasite's rap sheet is about to get much, much more disturbing. To find its host, an adult female screwworm seeks out exposed flesh on an animal (usually some sort of livestock, but an injured soldier or a human baby isn't out of the question) in search of a place to lay her eggs. She prefers wounds, but may also settle on using the eyes, nostrils, or anus of her victim to construct a nursery. Next, the 200-or-so eggs hatch, and the larvae start burrowing into their host's flesh. Once they're situated in their cozy little meat tunnels, the infant flies continue to feed and grow. The bigger they get, the more they have to eat. Eventually, this creates a whole lot of festering and oozing on the host, which attracts more flies, which lay more eggs, which do more feeding and burrowing. It's a brutal onslaught, and a swift one. Screwworm larvae are reportedly capable of consuming an entire sheep or dog from the inside out in five to seven days.

Sacculina carcini: Reasons You Shouldn't Pick up a Hitchhiker.

If you ever have a choice between being possessed by the devil and being possessed by a Sacculina carcini, opt for the devil - no contest. A female sacculina begins life as a tiny free-floating slug in the sea, drifting around until she encounters a crab. When that fateful day arrives, she finds a chink in the crab's armor (usually an elbow or leg joint) and thrusts a kind of hollow dagger into its body. After that, she (how to put this?) "injects" herself into the crab, sluicing through the dagger and leaving behind a husk. Once inside, the jellylike sacculina starts to take over. She grows "roots" that extend to every part of the crab's body - wrapping around its eyestalks and deep into its legs and arms. The female feeds and grows until eventually she pops out of the top of the crab, and from this knobby protrusion, she will steer the Good Ship Unlucky Crab for the rest of their co-mingled life. Packed full of parasite, the crab will forgo its own needs to serve those of its master. It won't molt, grow reproductive organs, or attempt to reproduce. It won't even regrow appendages, as healthy crabs can. Rather than waste the nutrients on itself, a host crab will hobble along and continue to look for food with which to feed its parasite master.

Filarial Worm

Filarial Worms: Proof You Need Thicker Skin.

Filarial worms are the nasty little suckers you can thank for lymphatic filariasis, which, according to the Pacific Program to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis, is the second-leading cause of permanent and long-term disability in the world. (Mental illness is No. 1.) Filarial worms are round, threadlike parasites that travel from human to human via that harbinger of disease transmission, the mosquito. How do they make the leap of host? In an interesting (if scary) example of parasite ingenuity, filarial worm embryos living underneath the skin can sense the onset of night, which is their cue to head upward to the skin's surface in order to increase their chances of being picked up by a passing 'skeeter. Should they get sucked up, they grow into larvae within the mosquito's muscle fibers and then get themselves injected into new hosts. Once they've returned into a human home, they open up a franchise in the family business - Wreaking Havoc. Filaria often lodge in the body's lymphatic system, where they can inflict any number of torturous symptoms, not the least which involves carting your genitals off to the elephantiasis clinic in a wheelbarrow.

Read more: The Global Alliance to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis | Lifecycle of Filariasis

Souce: Dose of Tenacity Wears Down an Ancient Honor

Guinea Worms: Exposing Parts Nobody Wants to See.

Where there are guinea worms, there is Guinea Worm Disease - and that's usually in Africa. When a human consumes water contaminated with guinea worms, the little buggers infiltrate their host's intestinal walls and commence mating. After conception, the males die off, and the females hang around for about a year, growing and eating. Eventually, these slender ladies get bored and decide they need to lay some eggs. To do so, they make their way down the body to the lower extremities, where they bore a small hole through the skin. The resulting lesion begins to fester and burn, which usually leads the host to plunge his or her foot into a soothing bucket of water (Of course, in areas where an entire village shares a single water source, this helps spread the infection.) Unfortunately for the sufferer, the water doesn't solve the problem of having a three-foot female worm dangling its genitalia out of your foot. And to complicate matters, if you yank on that sucker, it'll break apart and could cause a fatal infection. So how do you rid yourself of the not-so-little hitchhiker? You go see a doctor, who - over the course of three or four weeks - will kindly wind the worm around a stick, inch by agonizing inch. Not the most pleasant method, but certainly a proven one. This cure for a guinea worm infection has been around so long, so believe it's where we get the snakes-around-a-staff symbol for medicine.

Source: Insane Snail Parasite

Leucochloridium paradoxum: Parasite for Sore Eyes.

Prepare to be dazzled. This parasite's got a life cycle more mind-bending and chilling than an M. Night Shyamalan film. Leucochloridium paradoxum are a type of fluke (a.k.a., parasitic flatworm) that prey on birds - a fascinating turn of events considering they begin their lives as eggs in bird droppings. Thus, the problem facing baby Leucochloridum paradoxum is, "How do I get myself back into one of those feathery things?" Taking a page from Greek history, the infant flatworms rely on Trojan trickery. First, they hang out in the droppings until a snail happens along and eats the bird dung. Then they initiate their devious plan of action by taking up residence in the snail's eyestalks. (Sure, it sounds slimy and gross to us, but after a childhood spent living in bird feces, it's a step up.) As they mature, the flukes become visible through the snail's translucent skin. And that's when things get interesting. To a bird, this fluke-filled eyestalk looks like a caterpillar. So the bird devours the stalk and ends up with a bellyful of Leucochloridium paradoxum that will, of course, lay eggs and begin the cycle again. Meanwhile, the snail shakes its head, shops for an eye patch, and vows never to eat feces again.


This article was written by Chris Connolly for our friend mental_floss magazine, and is republished here on Neatorama in partnership with mental_floss. Don't forget to check out their awesome blog - it's worth a daily visit!:

The snake on the staff comes from Moses. People were saved by looking at it, so it became a sign of salvation, appropriate for the medical field.

Or were you joking?
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I thought the reall kicker for the Leucochloridium paradoxum story was the mind control:
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Scott Westerfeld's book Peeps is about vampires (though the characters avoid the "v" word). It explains vampirism as a form of parasitism and every other chapter is about real parasites, some of which are included in the preceding blog entry.
It also discusses toxoplasmosis (a parasite found in cat feces) and discusses evidence that it has influence the minds of humans.
Keep that litter box clean.
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omg...i couldn't read past the first one. very interesting though. that guy pulling the worm at his foot looked very distrubing, but better than those pics of the deformed animals. those make me sad :(
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The crab parasite's actually even worse than the description given here - it's not a slug, it's a kind of barnacle. A crustacean, like the crab.

The host crab is chemically castrated, and the distended growth at the base of the abdomen is the barnacle's brood chamber - and how does it breed?

"A male cyprid of the same species of barnacle attaches itself to the opening of this brood chamber, and then grows inside a special chamber within the female barnacle which itself is inside the body of the parasitised crab. This male growth forms into a testis. The female then effectively becomes a hermaphrodyte, which means that it can fertilise itself."

A parasite of a parasite.
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A very readable account of parasites can be found in the book "Parasite Rex" bt Carl Zimmer.

All six parasites are mentioned in the book.
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The 'Leucochloridium paradoxum' (LP) pathology is even weirder than the aricle states. I understand that LP will not survive an adult bird's stomach acid, so the bird cannot eat the LP it plucks from the snail.

The bird must feed LP to its chicks which have much weaker digestive juices, where it will continue to live and spawn in the birds intestinal track.

Rinse - Lather - Repeat.
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I thought the snakes on the staff were from ancient Greek mythology. The Staff of Asclepius.

After digging some more I saw that this symbol has been attributed to Moses much alter on. It seems that some people like to attribute everything to the bible.
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Also, another interesting aspect of the 'Leucochloridium paradoxum' is that is alters the behavior of the snail. These snails usually stay under leaves to avoid predators, but when infected, they helplessly wander around the tops of leaves, in plain view of the predatory birds.
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#16: The Aesculapius staff has only one snake.
#17: Correct. The caduceus is related to Hermes and is a symbol of peace. It's a Greek badge of honor.

When the U.S. Army Medical Corps adopted the Cadeuceus it was because it was similar to the staff of Aesculapius, the Ancient Greek god of medicine. The Aesculapian staff is what the American Medical Association uses.

Personally, I would be more terrified of the Candirú than many of these. This is the one that is the stuff of urban legends. I will leave it to you to read on wikipedia.
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Holy crap! That´s it. Great ideas for new horror movies! the invasion of the "Giant Filarial Worms from Space!", "Don´t stick that Cymothoa exigua at me!" or even "Sacculina carcini, the last Hitchhiker". Heh.
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I was going to mention pin worms, but that thing in the dude's foot kicks a pin worm's ass (if they have asses) any day of the week. For the parents in the crowd, if you weren't nauseated enough by these little horros go do a search for pin worms.

You can thank me later.
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*happy sigh* nice to see somebody else with an appreciation for our little cunning cousins.

I cover various parasites at length in my LJ - starting with parasitic genes, and working thru allograft cancers that are passed as seperate organisms from host to host, thru the viruses, plants, fungi, protozoa, simple animals, and so on - currently about to embark on the Ecydozoa (that should keep me busy for a few months)

anybody interested in learning more about them is encouraged to have a look :)
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wednesday morning august 23 rd 2006 838 a.m.
from infernal at
i have not had breakfast yet but i am loosing my appatite and all of these suckers are making me nausiated in my stomach
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wednesday morning august 23 rd 2006 8:43 a.m.
from LODGE_290 at
47 white male from mineral wells texas u.s.a.
good morning too all of my old good friends from old news baby that would not vote for any of my websites
and that is why you have not seen me this year posting on the brand new old news baby website but i do have alot of great brand new websites saved up that i will never post because i know that you will never give me enough points to win and i have been reading about all of your complaints about the brand new old news baby website not working right. so why have none of you emailed me all this year to keep me around and become great friends with all of this brand new free time that we have from not posting on old news baby ? any way these parasites get my vote this morning so keep on sucking hahahaha
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Actually, the last sentence of the piece is correct as written. The comma placement implies that the subject "snail" is connected to the three verbs "shakes," "shops," and "vows." Rewriting "the snail" three times would make the sentence sound ridiculous.

I don't know why I care enough to tell this to you...I just do.
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You forgot about the wasp, Ampulex compressa, that taps into a beetle's brain and then uses its chemicals to steer it back to the wasp's nest.
Read about it at Carl Zimmer's Loom:
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I feel sick.

I guess if you were really unlucky, you could get a screwworm, filarial worms and Guinea worms, whilst the "crabs" you suffer from thanks to that trip to the shop with no windows last year all get a sacculina carcini. Goodness only knows what they would do to your genitals!
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This is gross website but it is fact.

Now i feel sick because i have been to France eaten the snail, after i read this site, i vowed myself, i never will eat the snail ever again...Thanks a lot!!

Will i be brave to read more about it?? NOT !!
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.) make me so effing sick. i watched dis show on animal planet about parasites and it was disgusting...these r soooo gross. i wish i never came 2 dis section of da site. da rest of da site is gud tho...
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"I thought the snakes on the staff were from ancient Greek mythology."

Myth, Myth! From ancient Greek myth! Sorry this is a big pet peeve of mine. The stories themselves are myths. Mythology is the corpus of writing that analyzes myths. It's somewhat similar to the difference between History and Historiography. You wouldn't say you are a military historiography buff, when what you enjoy reading is John Keegan and Stephan Ambrose.
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You know how we keep getting asked for 'absolute proof' that evolution is in operation... well here it is, right here. You think God would have made any of these f*ckers by hand?
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Well....I have this Biology teacher. He is a unique guy with "special" interests. Don't get me wrong, I'm greatful because this means exciting essay topics that are easier to write.

Before, the topics ranged from parthenogenisis (asexual reproduction) to chimerism (people who have varying DNA through out their body i.e. their top organs do not match their bottom organs). Now he gave us an article about the Guinea Worm Disease.

Obviously, curiosity got the best of me and here we are...with belly aches.
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Wow, so much for EVER having an appetite again. This freaks me out! I remember seeing a special on TV about flesh-eating bacteria and this disgusts me just about as much. I can't believe there are things out there like this. I hope I never experience them first hand!
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So weird i was looking for a worm thats small and white and when u crap they live in ur poop i know i know sick but some get stuck in ur butt and move around but when you pull them out of ur butt they stop moving why is that and what kind of parasite is it? i think it lives in sink water drains and other things.
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Quite gross, but also fascinating, in a freaky kind of way.

Animals are not the only ones who succumb to parasitic mind control:

About half the human population (3 billion people) are infected with T. gondii.

The parasite is thought to have different, and often opposite effects in men versus women, but both genders appear to develop a form of neuroticism called "guilt proneness."

And I thought that affliction was due to me being raised as a Catholic.
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i remember watching videos on parasites, which i think included all of the above, in a biology class...

some guy ate a cyst or something similar from raw cows flesh and grew a tape worm (or some other sort of worm)... i think he had some mental problems, but it was actually, while disgusting, fairly interesting...

there was one part where the worm crawled about an inch or two out of a cut on his arm...

and I've lost my appetite just thinking about it again.
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Damm man that stuff is hell interesting to read, i guess it would be distasteful to most, however is always good to read up on some fact especially about the Guinea worm, who knows i might be going to Africa soon!! >
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To the very first person who posted:

The medicinal staff dates back much farther than Moses. It was originally a Greek symbol stolen by the Christians (as were the majority of Christian symbols) and it DID mean specifically "to heal".

Take a history class.
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I think you'll find that the Snakes around a staff does not come exclusively from Moses (Numbers 21:4–9). It was from an Ancient Greek legend like much of medicine's symbolism. The Snakes wrapped around a staff was astrological and is known as "The Rod of Asclepius". Asclepius was supposed to have been the son of Apollo and was a practitioner of medicine.
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creeps! i haven't seen Cymothoa and screwworms in our parasitology class.. please take time to see there are articles on parasites and behavior manipulation :)
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Sam.... Did the people of Sumeria get that from Moses? I could have sworn the Sumerians spread their message of the Annunaki way before the Jews were dribbling on about Moses.... They used the snake as a symbol of science and medicine.... They also intertwined them, like a DNA strain, you know, like the symbol we use to this day.

Now, I'm not going to say you're wrong, but I can tell you aint right.In my humble opinion, the symbol ressembles the Sumerian symbol a tad more than a snake staff... Just saying.
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I'm not sure if it's relevant to the discussion about Moses and the origin of the staff & snake but the fiery dragons referred to in Exodus(?) are thought to be guinea worms.
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i think that the worm is the sickest paresite because if it dies in u or brakes apart it releases toxions which can kill you i never want to live in a nasty village like the ones in africa yuk but this site was helpfull
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i dont like the first one

u noe unlike some ppl I ACCTUATLY LIKE MY TOUNGE

omg did i suprise u?

anyways it looks okish but i rlly dont want one.. no thnz

cant u just get me like a book or somthin

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OMG SO COOL ur so mart.. LOL

anyways it was rlly interestin

thnx for postin it

helps a lot

thnx again hop eu keep maikin gmore
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