The human body has been said to be a complicated construct. With the many different systems that help it to function it is no wonder that the body would be deemed as amazing as described within the book title, The Way We Work: Getting to Know the Amazing Human Body written by David Macaulay. Furthermore, the structure and design of the human frame has been called an amazing machine by many scientists. But, if this system was so “perfect” then why is it subject to illnesses, viruses, and diseases, some of which cannot be explained by that of science? Two of these infections are viruses and parasites of the human body. These organisms have been said to be fascinating as well as disgusting by ordinary people across the globe and all types of media, especially news and social.
So what is a parasite? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), parasites are beings that live on or within a host’s body, gaining everything needed for growth and survival at the expense of the host. A host can be a human being or an animal. Some of these creatures cause disease and infection and some do not, only having slightly side effects of pain or discomfort. A well-known parasite is that of the botfly commonly found within Mexico and Central America as well as in South America. In order to continue its life cycle, it must lay eggs on a host, human or animal, but there seems to be an issue with this. The human botfly, Dermatobia hominis, is about the size of a bumblebee. Therefore, it does not directly land on the skin because it is too large.
This is how the process, according to scientific media such as National Geographic and places like the CDC, works: The botfly lays its eggs on mosquitos or other insects that have regular human contact, using a type of “glue” to seal them. Whilst the mosquito harvests its intake of human blood, the eggs fall off due to body heat melting away the glue. Once this happens, the larva wastes no time in using its two-pronged teeth to eat away at the skin in order to bury itself inside.
From here it takes anywhere from 20 to 60 days (roughly two months) for the larva to complete its growth cycle. To ensure that it goes undisturbed, the botfly larva has little spines on its body, helping it to stay wedged inside the skin. As the botfly begins to grow, the skin rises up into a bump, similar to a mosquito bite, and continues to get bigger in size. The area turns red and can become rather painful to the host. After completely this cycle of growth, the botfly will then drop out of the host and into soil where it then proceeds to become an adult botfly. Often, before this stage can occur, the larva is removed by either plugging up the breathing tube which pokes out from the skin, this causing the larva to “come up for air,” or by pulling it out with a pair of tweezers. Botflies are not known to have any diseases or other side effects that could potentially be dangerous. So, among the many viruses and parasites of the human body, the botfly is known to be a lessor one.
On the other hand, when it comes to viruses, many of them can be categorized as extremely harmful and sometimes even lethal to the human system. A virus is also a living being, like a parasite, but on a more submicroscopic level that can be either a minor or major infectious disease. Viruses can only produce copies within the living cells of another life form. The West Nile Virus is one of these diseases and considered to be highly infectious. It is said to be very infectious because of its carrier and transmitter, the mosquito. Effects from this virus vary from having little or no signs of symptoms such as a minor headache to a life threatening illness, this including inflammation inside the brain. This disease made its first appearance around the year 1999 in the United States. The minor symptoms felt from the West Nile Virus usually fade away without much medical assistance. It is only when such symptoms turn severe that medical attention is often required.
Viruses and parasites of the human body come in small or large packages, carry with them a number of different symptoms or side effects, and are ever evident today. As the medical profession becomes increasingly aware of these diseases, doctors around the world deal with viruses and parasites in similar ways. As the saying goes “knowing is the first step to winning the battle.”
By Isis E. Stevens