Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Edward Cullen of Parasites

Had third exam yesterday. We did our lab presentations today regarding unknown diagnoses with our plate cultures. Our case was based on a blood and urine sample from a 9 month old baby girl and we identified E. coli and some S. epidermidis (the latter probably due to skin contamination during the sampling process though) through Gram stains, API test strip, and all that jazz.

After that, we had an introduction lecture about parasitology. Cool class and we learned about all sorts of icky parasites that are quite clever at stowing away into their hosts' bodies, including this little fellow:

Behold. The Hookworm!

And then I died some more as the professor oh so casually described it: "I'd imagine this to be the Edward Cullen of parasites."

Class: "Say what?"

"It sucks blood and ... yeah."

I choked on my half-bewildered, half-horrified laughter.

Confused folks in the back row: "What? What is this Cullen he speaks of?"

I was lost for words. Three extra lessons I learned today:

1) So actually, not everybody is aware of this Twilight business. I thought it had about taken over the world already.

2) But of all those people out there who does know of Twilight, one of them is my professor. Who is so familiar with the Twilight world, he can state the full name of our favorite sparkling vampire. (Extra odd because I'm glancing back and forth between one girl who's all blissfully confused, "What's he talking about?", and then back to our middle-aged male professor, who's eyeing the picture of the hookworm, "Sup, Cullen.")

3) And I will never look at Mr. Hookworm the same way again. There is a part of Mr. Hookworm that thirsts for my blood and I am unconditionally and irrevocably in love with - yeah, no. Just no.

Random facts about Hookworm (Necatur americanus, Ancylostoma duodenale):
  • a parasitic nematode worm that lives in the small intestine of its host
  • feeds on host's small bowel mucosa, sucking blood directly from site of attachment
  • one of the most important causes of childhood anemia in developing nations 
  • infective larvae develop and survive in an environment of damp dirt
  • diagnosis depends on finding worm eggs through microscopic examination of the stools
  • basic prevention: don't walk barefoot in suspicious areas, avoid using human excrement as fertilizers, and try to deworm pets


  1. This just made my day. Bleeh physics. Your professor is amazing.
    And worms are great to learn about! I creeped myself out just wiki-ing them awhile back.

  2. wow, to the people who dont know about twilight...lets just say ignorance is bliss. Those cullen fangirls out there are just a tad bit crazy.

    Mr. Hookworm looks absolutely ravishing. -_- I joke, it looks like its about to devour something and spit out its entrails.

  3. No fair, how come you get an awesome lecturer and I don't? All my lecturers ever do is draw analogies between infections and food, which is great for lectures just before lunch -_- not.

  4. Oh Em gee >.<
    I wanna do Medicine at Uni next year and the looks of it it's soooo much to learn in such short space!! TT__TT I'm barely getting through A-Levels :(

    It's prob totally different to what we have to do in the UK but what sort of extra stuff did you have to do to get into med school? Apart from the grades.


  5. Thanks for the comments! Worms are awesome, aren't they?

    Witness Fool: lol, I totally understand what you mean about food comparisons! Especially pathologists. They use food examples for everything (i.e. scarlet fever's strawberry tongue, tuberculosis' caseous necrosis - it means cheesy and it does look like cottage cheese, liver abscess' anchovy-paste, etc.) So awesome and oh-so-non-appetizing.

    kae: My program is slightly different from the traditional med school route since it's a combined program, but I basically did a bunch of extracurriculars - hospital volunteer, club positions, etc. Tried to get good grades on the admissions exams and letters of recommendations. And while I didn't do research before I got into my school, it might be a good idea to get some research experience provided that you have some interest in it, of course. As with all schools, I think they really want to see some aspect about their candidates that set them apart from others. Show them something productive you're passionate about, maintain good grades, and ... whatever that's meant to happen will happen. Best of luck on everything! I know how stressful it can be. :(