Some threats to our safety and well-being are obvious and easy to spot from a mile away. Over the course of history, people have become very skilled at looking for danger and avoiding it. But some threats are more difficult to spot—and once they strike, the results can be deadly.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
The autopsy began at eleven a m, but it didn't go according to plan the ground
Students who had filled the medical theatre were there to learn what they could from the subject on the table. With the work turned out to be more complicated than the lecturers had expected
For the longest time, the dead man's chest refused to give way to their scalpel blades. Finally, though, shortly before the lecture was scheduled to end one of the medical instructors managed to cut through the corpses abdomen, but when he did, he sighed with
restoration. It was just one more example of the same condition they had seen so many times before us,
the diaphragm. The classroom emptied
All of the students had decided that lunch was a better use of their time and migrated out of the room, but when the theater was empty, one student silently crept back inside. His name was James,
just like all the other students he attended, Saint Bartholemy Use in London, because he wished to become a physician, but he was also a bit more curious than most of them sneaking down to the corpse on the table. He carefully took a sample of the infected tissue that his instructor had called sandy diaphragm, then pulling out a hand lens. He gave the sample a closer look and then caught his breath. There was more to the tissue sample than.
Small crystal, like grains, that earned the condition its name Paget would later go on to use a more powerful microscope and then right up his findings in a paper which he presented to a student group in February of eighteen, thirty, five. Sadly, he was beaten.
Finish line by one of his professors who discovered what Padgett was researching and then used his more official connections to have his own paper submitted to the royal society. James pageants curiosity might have started the race, but he lost because he didn't know the shortcuts. What he discovered, though, confirm something that,
Few of us are ready to accept we like to imagine that we live in a bubble that our bodies are safe and clean and free from harm, but if there is one thing that James Padgett and others over the centuries have learned its that we are far from the masters of our own domain. We are in,
constantly at risk, a heartbeat away from losing control vulnerable to what chance encounter that could threaten our well being our comfort or our very lives,
it's a threat that has taken the lies of countless people over the course of history and while some have made it their life's work to study it most have been woefully unprepared were just how insidious it can be,
We'll never see it coming, but the effects have the potential to be absolutely devastating aim. Aaron maggie- and this is more in the world of the ancient Greeks, one of the most important places in society where the temples they were places of worship and sacrifice filled with those who
to pay their respects and those who worked within them to help make sure everything ran smoothly. There were priests, as you might expect, but there were also assistance known as acolytes who helped them do their job, and one of the things we ve learned about acolytes is
that they weren't necessarily paid for their work. Instead, they were
loud to earn a living through a barter system in exchange
regular meals and a place to stay. They showed up and perform their jobs. They lived off the system so to speak and that earn them another name
Paris eat us, which literally means eating at another's table
in the millennia sense that term has trickled down to us from Greek to Latin and then to French. Finally,
Venus. A word we ve all heard before parasite.
Today. That word has a bit of an unhappy connotation and for good reason, but back in the days of the ancient Greeks, it was originally a neutral term. These acolytes metaphorically eight from another person's tape,
In order to support themselves- and that was a normal and accepted part of Temple life, but around the fourth
Jerry BC that started to change. The writers of a number of greek comedies began to use the term in their place, to refer to dinner guest, to turned out to be a bit too difficult to kick out freeloaders. We might say and
limitation stuck but etymology aside,
sure is around the world have been aware of parasitic relationships for thousands of years and in many cases they treated them with respect,
in ancient China. The relationship between a master and a student was often represented by the image of a wasp and the worm and the Vedic Literature of India that same respect can be found through positive use of the parasite and host metaphor, and they built those metaphors by watching the word.
Around them. Minor historians have studied ancient egyptian documents that describe intestinal worms and roman physicians recorded observing similar creatures inside farm animals and fish, even though they have
Yet to be bundled under the modern term of parasite, people have known about them for a very long time and have studied and labelled them like any other creature for nearly as long but the real scientific exploration began. When people started to study how parasite
spread for a very long time. Everyone subscribed to a theory known as spontaneous generation. It was an idea put forward by Aristotle and his followers
to explain where lower lifeforms came from human
and animals are born through reproduction, but less complex life he suggested simply arose spontaneously
For a very long, while their theory was applied to parasites, creatures like worms and bugs seemed to thrive in a wet, muddy environment
so naturally they must spontaneously appeared there, but an eighteen
Thirty two of french scientists discover that parasitic worms actually lay eggs and most horrifying of all that ingesting those eggs in caused some one to become infected
Naturally, there were brave scientists to wanted to put that idea.
asked the italian scientist Giovanni Battista Grassy, infected himself with round worms and then studied his own feces days later. Looking for new eggs, which of course he found- and I know that sounds disgusting, but he's far from the worst defender in medical history.
That prize could very well belong to Shamash Shoe Kyoto. He was a jacket.
his position and scientists to conducted his own experiment in nineteen twenty two by eating over too
thousand roundworm eggs. Then he gathered hundreds of eggs,
I'm a parasite. He found inside a pig and fed those to his brother, and while half of me wants to know how the other half of me just wants to stop thinking about it entirely.
What's fascinating about pianos work, though, is that when the eggs began to reappear, it wasn't just in his feces, both he and his brother developed bad coughs.
Found parasites and the mucous that was expelled from their lungs. The worms had burrowed out of their digestive system and into their lungs, which is horrifying. Yes,
but it also widened our understanding of how these creatures work, but even that simple idea,
that someone needed to ingest the eggs of a parasite in order to become infected was eventually thrown out the door
eighteen, ninety six, a german scientists Dame Arthur Loose, was managing
his own experiment when he became infected even after being careful not to eat his subjects. It turns out his infection happened in a much more frightening way
watch. His parasite of choice happened to be the hookworm and after accidently
Rushing his hand over part of the sample he developed an intense ich. In that hand, a hookworms had latched on drilled in and then began to borough into it.
Body. As a scientist, I am sure he was absolutely fascinated as a human being.
I can't help but wonder if he screamed even just a little one last story about these wonderful little hookworms
The discovery that loose made was terrifying, yes, but it provided answers to an age old medical mystery for a very long,
time minors and labourers in the construction industry who spent a lot of time in the mud and soil with sometimes develop what was referred to as plumbers, Ich or Tunnel disease red itchy lines that grew just below the surface.
of their skin. It's probably safe to assume that it was called tunnel disease because of where they contracted it. But there is also a bit of irony there, because what
happening was literal tunneling. You see some forms of hookworms can't borough from the skin to the digestive system. They get trapped just below the surface in sort of dig their way along leaving those red infected tunnels behind them, clinically it I'll make sense and giving it names like ground. Ich
or a tunnel disease, certainly helps remove the mystery there's one other name for the infection that masterfully captures the full horror of the symptoms, although so hinting at something darker and more terrifying, they called it the creeping eruption of its work,
thing to know that parasites exist. We can accept that and even find a way to move forward, but where the true darkness creeps in is when we realise just how devastating they can be, and we can thank one of the students of Arthur loose for showing us that.
Charles word well. Styles, wasn't german like his mentor. He was born in Spring Valley, New York in eighteen, sixty seven and after stuff
with loose at the University of Leipzig. He returned to America to continue his work in the field of parasitology, and it was just a few years after that in nineteen o too, that he applied his skills to a civil
more mystery Andersonville. Georgia was home to the largest confederate prison camp ever created at its peak in eighteen, sixty four. It had become home to over forty five thousand people, and nearly a third of them died as a result of the horrible conditions. Just how bad was it honestly? It's a miracle that more of them didn't die. Prisoners were given enough food, so many of them starved or became ill. They were never giving new clothing, so they would either take clothing from the dead or be left to suffer through cold weather, with little to no clothing at all, they weren't allowed to cook the food that they did have and with no utensils they often had to eat with their hands and in a camp with
sanitation, constant rain and mud and weakened immune systems. That was a recipe for disaster before the war was over. The confederate sent an expert in infectious disease to figure out what was killing so many of the prisoners after month,
of study and countless postmortem examinations. He concluded that it was scorbutic dysentery
for a very long time. Back conclusion didn't sit well with others in the medical world.
Charles styles brought his new found knowledge of Paris, Attali G to bear on Andersonville and RE examined the evidence. In the end he rejected the dysentery diagnosis and instead claimed many of the deaths and Anderson could be blamed on the hookworm which is horrifying to consider. While these prisoners were fighting for enough nutrition to survive, there were colonies of Hungary.
sites thriving inside their gut ashore. While later the north american hookworm was recognised as a serious health threats and given the scientific name neck, a tour American us most, though, simply called it. The american killer, but hookworms aren't the only parasite with a history in the new world and over the years styles. What
Then, if I many of them, there are so many parasites that I could tell you about on the surface, all of them act in pretty much the same way. A parasites invades a host and then each at their table. So to speak.
And if that's the metaphor, you want to walk away with it'll, do a good job of encapsulating much of the parasite world, but there are other more
citys versions as well.
just about. Everyone knows what a barnacle is Sprite technically it's in arthropods, an invertebrate that hasn't exoskeleton insects, spiders, shrimp and lobster are all arthropods, and so our barnacles, you ve, seen them before. They tend to look like crusty hockey. Pox that cling to the rocks,
below the surface of the ocean or on the hall of a ship they can even be found on whales got it good, because there is a particular type of barnacle known as the rise of failure and its different from most of its peers
it has no hard shell and it doesn't look anything like them either. Instead, it has adapted to be a parasite and what it does is utterly horrifying.
The rise of failure will attach itself to a crab in a very barnacle like way, but that's where the similarity stop. After that, it begins to grow route like filaments, that spread throughout the crabs body. Slowly taking country.
In the end, the barnacle will not only control the crabs brain but also its reproductive system, guiding it to mate with another infected crab, which of course produces more rises, failure
The frightening thing is that once the barnacle has taken control, the crab will forever think of itself as a female barnacle and it will care for the barnacles eggs as if they were its own. It's the natural worlds, version of the alien from the Ridley Scott movie franchise, infecting a host body and using it to gestate its own offspring, which then
Dramatically burst out, of course, and its also the darker side of the coin. In most instances, people have
them in a simple transaction away. There's a parasites and there is a host,
Everything that happens is contained within the intimate relationship that they have with each other, while still retaining their own identity.
but the rise of failure, breaks that idea and replace it with something much more complex and dangerous, because its
just our bodies that are at risk, but the very world we live in. Parasites have the power to change, lives, destroy communities or transform cultures, and given the right circumstances, they can even alter the very course of history,
Henry didn't get affair started. Life born in Wales and one thousand eight hundred and forty one, his mother abandoned him and his father and grandfather both died before he was five. But after a decade in the workhouse, he escaped all that and travel to America where he planned to start a new life. The next decade
was a blur. He fought for the confederates in the civil war, but was captured and sent to a prison camp in Chicago there. He converted to the union side.
but soon discharged after he became too sick. The fight in eighteen
before he managed to join up with the. U S navy quickly, working his way to the
mission of Ships record keeper and it was there
He learned that he had a talent for recording stories. In fact, he was better than good when the war was over. He spent a brief amount of time travelling through the Ottoman Empire, but when he returned, he took up the pen and began to write
tales of the American West. His accounts of federal military attacks on the native Americans of the great plains might have been over hyped and glorified
but they landed him. A writing gig at the New York Herald, as in overseas correspondent.
In eighteen, sixty nine fate came knocking on the door. It was the only
The newspaper and he had a mission for young Henry Stanley travelled to Africa and search for doktor, David, Livingstone,
He was a british missionary and explore who had set off three years earlier to find the true source of the Nile, but much of the world believed he had vanished the truth,
As the british Council Venza Zanzibar knew exactly where he was, and Stanley boss wanted him to get an exclusive interview become
nation of that journey is well known. Even if you don't know the details, Stanley
his way south from Egypt through the rainy season between the mud, disease and small skirmishes with locals defending their land. Roughly. Seventy five percent of stand: these party died before reaching their destination, but when they did and Stanley saw Livingstone for the first time he claimed to have uttered that now famous question
you're Livingstone. I presume today its clear to historians that Stanley was a gifted liar who was prone to craft in his own fantastical version of real life events.
Livingstone, never recorded that phrase of greeting and Stanley mysteriously destroyed the pages of his diary that covered that day. So we only have his word to back it up. In fact, the chances are good. It never happened
but his retailing of their real meeting was enough to convince the New York Herald to send Stanley back to Africa in eighteen. Seventy four, the mission:
this time was to map more of the waterways that Livingstone has started, and so Stanley spent three years following the Congo River all the way to the Atlantic, and then he headed to Europe.
And a financial backwards continue, selling it as an investment into the politics of the Congo after England, ignore the offer kingly uphold. The second of Belgium jumped at the chance for the next.
I've years Stanley became the chief agent responsible for organizing what would become one of the world's most brutal imperial outposts of european power, the belgian Congo, and sadly, he was a horrible representative of Europe to the people of Africa.
Through the eighteen, Eightys and Ninetys Stanley, Criss crossed back and forth across Africa, creating a high
way that allowed imperial troops to easily march in and take control. He was less an agent of progress and more a harbinger of colonialism. It said it Stanley would shoot local people without warning and that he had a knack for
dealing ivory and all of it made him a superstar back in England. He'd come full circle and lived out. Everyone's dream
after starting life as an orphan and workhouse in Wales, he found himself being welcomed home to a reception at London's Royal Albert Hall, royalty, aristocrats and members of the wealthy elite all crowded around, to shake his hand and congratulate him on his accomplishments. There was fan mail and awards in magazine covers, and, of course, the book deal
which turned into a national best seller in Eighteen- ninety five- he was elected to the british parliament and four years later, he was needed by Queen Victoria herself and that's the story of Henry
any or at least the one that history remembers the most but stand these journey across Africa
did more than earned him metals and applause, you left a trail of destruction and catastrophe in his wake that is almost impossible to quantify and at the center
Much of it was something we would only be able to see under a microscope
Stanley Highway across Africa opened the way for imperial troops to march in and take control. It provided
Nisi Route for slavers to go deeper into the continent and steal human beings from new native groups, but it also spread something that had remained isolated until his arrival. The tripartite zone parasite
those caused by its infection earned the nickname, the sleeping sickness patients. First experience fever and headaches
as well as swollen lymph nodes and internal organs like the liver and spleen, then the parasite crosses into the
rain, bringing on mental confusion and overwhelming sleepiness after the patient falls into a coma death is close behind
Remind me of the one thousand eight hundred that parasite was trapped in pockets along the coast of Western Africa. Sure folks would get sick, but because they rarely traveled outside their small regent. The parasite never migrated. That is, of course, until Stanley arrived to blaze an easy accessible highway from the Atlantic Ocean to the Interior of Africa.
you can see where this is going right, Stanley arrived with over seven hundred soldiers and servants and early on they unknowingly, encountered the parasite, then, as they travelled from place to place, they infected the inhabitants of each new community. They met over and over the parasite found new host spreading like wildfire with sir.
Family holding the match. It wouldn't be until one thousand nine hundred and three that a microbiologist named David Bruce discover the carrier of the parasite. A biting insect called the TT fly,
they historians believed that the wave of sleeping sickness that followed and stand these wake contributed to an outbreak that took the lives of millions of people across Africa
Just in the area around Lake Victoria alone, the parasite was responsible for nearly a quarter of a million deaths.
which has caused some to talk about it within the framework of what is referred to as the revenge of nature, that the world
around us has a way of keeping humanity in check. After all,
Humans have a history of damaging ecosystems and altering the very landscape of the places we live. Some people believe that parasites are one way the world exacts that revenge. True or not. It certainly invites us to stop and think about the consequences of our actions, because sometimes it seems the world around us bites back.
There is a hidden world inside each of us, a world of organs and systems and the careful balance between sickness and health.
We can't see much of it with our naked eyes, but it's there just beneath the surface. One good example is a parasite called toxic Plasma Gandhi
which can be ingested through contaminated drinking water, is primarily carried by cats, but can also live inside human beings and, according to most parasitology us over half of all people on the planet, carry them usually without symptoms, or at least the sort of symptoms you might expect. But one study from two thousand seven hints at a darker impact. It seems that the press,
since of the parasite, can actually have an effect on our behaviour over the course of this eleven year, study Jara Slav flag or discovered that people infected by the parasite behave differently from those who
art men who are infected apparently tend to ignore rules more often and exhibit jealousy and suspicion. They tend to be more opinionated and argumentative about those appear.
Infected women share that same suspicion and anxiety, but also become more outgoing and persistent. Take from that, whatever you want, but its clear that parasite
Scan alter our minds just as well as they do our bodies, and maybe that's why parasites are so frightening to us
Yes, the things they can do are horrifying to consider the disease and damage that they can cause, but it
their near invisibility. It frightens us the most. We might not know that we ve been invaded until it's too late.
and by the time we know there is work to do that. Work has already become overwhelmingly difficult.
looking back on history, its that gap between infection and awareness that holds the most opportunity for tragedy, we certainly
saw that in Henry Stanley Stale it could take weeks, foreign infected member of his party to show any symptoms at all and by then that's easy fly from each new region had taken a bite, picked up the parasites and moved on to some one else. By the time they knew
It was too late still, even though they were unaware of their role in the spread of the sleeping sickness Stanley and his european backers were more than happy to treat the outbreak as an invitation to keep going. In fact, they
use the medical emergency as a convenient excuse to ramp up their colonial efforts. They got people sick
and flooded in under the pretence of helping them get better, which only continued the cycle. It's a perfect demonstration of how powerful parasites can be they invader, host beast on its resources and then leave them too weak to stir
the infection from spreading. They ve taken control. Long before the house knows what has happened and it can take extraordinary effort to flush them out. In the end, I said
was Henry Stanley Tale has taught us a difficult lesson to accept, not all parasites, our microscopic
stories of curious scientists and colonial explores seem like a logical place to find parasites hiding in the corners until the time is right and I get that
and they certainly given us a lot to think about, but I have one
or a story for you and it's a lot closer to home. Maybe too close stick around after
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we don't know her real name in Mostar.
those about her she's listed as simply a woman from Ontario. Although it
One scholarly paper has given her the pseudonym Edith Beckett, but it's her story. That's important and I dont want to skip it just because we can't name her, I'm sure you'll understand
Edith was a woman who lived in Ontario Canada in the middle of the nineteen hundreds.
One day in nineteen. Forty two. She did what a lot of people do chewing grocery shopping for her, though this particular tripped, the store was just a walk down the street, where a peddler was selling sausages, think New York City, hotdog vendor, but uncooked. I imagined she did this because it was convenient, may be the case.
This butcher was too far out of her accessibility. Perhaps she only had a few minutes to grab something before work. We don't know her specific situation, but that's ok.
Important thing is that we know who she purchase the sausages from
turns out the peddler made it himself. He bought the pork from a meat packing facility in town, and then
used his own grinder and tools to finish the job. I don't know
he always sold his own sausages from one location all the time or if he traveled around town ringing a bell like some sort of a weird meat based ice cream man. But on that particular day he was there to sell some of his product to eat if she took them home, of course, and later got them out to cook up for lunch.
Family was waiting and it had been a long day, but she probably had done this a hundred times before she knew the recipe by heart.
While she really needed to do is tasted it to know. If the seasoning was right, she popped a small piece into her mouth and nodded just a few more minutes and it would be ready or family aided up to
the court documents specifically state that they enjoyed it, which, I am sure was a good thing, but what,
in a few hours. Edith wasn't feeling well just Edith, no one else. She was feverish, and so
he after struggling with knowledge for an hour, or so she began to vomit violently, and there was the diarrhoea as well or stomach felt as if a hot iron had been dropped inside it.
Of course, there was probably a moment when Edith assumed it was food poisoning, but one look at her family who had
eaten the same meal as her told her that couldn't be the case. They were fine,
find while she was an agony and it
they got worse from there. By the end of the week, nothing had changed. She was still experiencing all
The same extreme symptoms that had plagued her since the beginning or fever spite and her body ached so badly that she could barely get out of bed and soon after her heartbeat began to weaken Edith was dying and no one could figure out why. But we know why: don't we that very same parasite that James Padgett had study?
at Saint Bartholomew back in eighteen, thirty, five known today as try Cornelis by Rayless, had hitched to ride inside Ediths body. It turns out that it was probably that little taste she took before the sausage was fully cooked because inside one
I am of infected meat, can be more than a thousand track and larvae just waiting for a new home,
once inside, the parasite will invade the small intestine and from there it will spread outward. The muscles quickly become home to small colonies, known as nurse cells, sort of like a swollen, cyst filled
fluid. Are those cysts grow, larger and stronger as time goes by eventually giving birth to new larvae repeating the process?
The good news is Edith survived. I dont know how, but I can guess that she managed to get medical help in time, and that's a good thing. Don't get me
but there is no silver lining here: eat its health would never be the same like an old tree. That's been gutted by infestation or body continue to suffer from digestive issues for the rest of her life.
And that's not all. It turns out that, even though the adult try canola might die off eventually those now
waiting inside them are thousands of dormant larvae just waiting for their current host to die so that they can in fact a new one and those nurse cells can survive for over three decades. Don't get me wrong, not all parasites herb actually bad. There are parasitic fungi that growing plants like mushrooms and leeches parasitic bloodsucker are still used effectively in medical treatments. Today, with those are small exceptions in a big scary world world, that's often too difficult to see with the naked eye.
so stay safe, wash your hands and maybe cook that me just a little longer, because no one wants to play host to and uninvited guest.
This episode of law was written and produced by me. Aaron monkey with research by Karl Nellis, add music by Chad, Lawson.
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Transcript generated on 2022-03-12.