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Parasites

The Study Of Parasites

Parasitology is the study of parasites and their relationships with host organisms. Throughout history people have coped with over 100 types of parasites affecting humans. Parasites have not, however, been systematically studied until the last few centuries. With his invention of the microscope in the late 1600s, Anton von Leeuwenhoek was perhaps the first to observe microscopic parasites. As Westerners began to travel and work more often in tropical parts of the world, medical researchers had to study and treat a variety of new infections, many of which were caused by parasites. By the early 1900s, parasitology had developed as a specialized field of study.

Typically, a parasitic infection does not directly kill a host, though the drain on the organism's resources can affect its growth, reproductive capability and survival, leading to premature death. Parasites, and the diseases they cause and transmit, have been responsible for tremendous human suffering and loss of life throughout history. Though the majority of parasitic infections occur within tropical regions and among low-income populations, most all regions of the world sustain parasitic species, and all humans are susceptible to infection.

Though many species of viruses, bacteria, and fungi exhibit parasitic behavior and can be transmitted by parasites, scientists usually study them separately as infectious diseases. Types of organisms that are studied by parasitologists include species of protozoa, helminths or worms, and arthropods.


Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Overdamped to PeatParasites - The Study Of Parasites, Protozoa, Nematodes (roundworms), Cestodes (tapeworms), Trematodes (flukes) - Helminths, Arthropods