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Tales of Humanity's Most Unwelcome Guests

Rosemary Drisdelle (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 280 pages
ISBN: 9780520269774
August 2010
$34.95, £27.00
Other Formats Available:
Hidden away within living tissues, parasites are all around us—and inside us. Yet, despite their unsavory characteristics, as we find in this compulsively readable book, parasites have played an enormous role in civilizations through time and around the globe. Parasites: Tales of Humanity’s Most Unwelcome Guests puts amoebae, roundworms, tapeworms, mites, and others at the center of the action as human cultures have evolved and declined. It shows their role in exploration, war, and even terrorist plots, often through an unpredictable ripple effect. It reveals them as invisible threats in our food, water, and luggage; as invaders that have shaped behaviors and taboos; and as unexpected partners in such venues as crime scene investigations. Parasites also describes their evolution and life histories and considers their significant benefits. Deftly blending the sociological with the scientific, this natural and social history of parasites looks closely at a fascinating, often disgusting group of organisms and discovers that they are in fact an integral thread in the web of life.
List of Illustrations
Author's Note


1. Ambush
Parasites that have changed human history

2. Market of Peril
Parasites versus food safety regulations—is anything safe to eat?

3. Drinking-Water Advisory
How parasites get into our water and what we try to do about it

4. Illegal Aliens
The unintentional but persistent global movement of parasites by humans

5. Parasites in Control
As in science fiction, some parasites do take over their hosts

6. In the House of Mirrors
Good, bad, and imaginary—the cultural meanings and practical uses of parasites, and the power of fear

7. The Parasite Felonies
Criminals who cast their lot in with parasites

8. Emerging Parasites
The ones that seem to come out of nowhere, and where they really come from

9. Parasite Extinction
Can we ever get rid of these unwelcome guests?

Selected Bibliography and Additional Reading
Rosemary Drisdelle is a writer and a clinical parasitologist living in Nova Scotia.
“Drisdelle is not only an experienced parasitologist and scientific author, but a creative genius. . . . Her writing style and narrative is so entertaining that one will want to keep turning this book’s pages to see what happens next.”—P. M. Watt Choice
“Drisdelle describes biological processes lovingly and beautifully. . . Her description of the human body as a suitcase, “a packer and shipper of parasite relocation’, is wonderfully apt . . . read Drisdelle for an education.”—Anne Hardy Times Literary Supplement (TLS)
“Hookworm, roundworm, bed bugs, lice, trichinosis, sleeping sickness, scabies: these are some of the parasites and diseases that Drisdelle ably describes with mirth, occasional poetry, and an infectious scientific fascination, where the human story is an essential element of the natural history.”—Scitech Book News
[”A] compulsively readable book.”—Interaction / Bms Book News
“An interesting guide to what's eating you, literally! Not for the squeamish!”—Ian Paulsen The Guardian (Uk) / The Birdbooker Report
“A superb introduction to and overview of parasites in some of their many fascinating and historically significant forms.”—Well-Read Naturalist
“Drisdelle has written one of those rare books that is fun to read but does not skimp on scholarly rigor. . . . It is a treasure trove of anecdotes, not to mention novel perspectives, that professors of organismal animal biology will find invaluable in their teaching. It is also a fabulous auxiliary text for courses about parasitology or public health. The word parasite originated as a Greek term for someone who eats at someone else's table, often without payment. We have all had unwelcome guests in that sense. Some of those folks whose visits we have endured might have been more welcome were they half as interesting as the guests we meet in Parasites: Tales of Humanity's Most Unwelcome Guests.”—Janice Moore Bioscience
“Parasites is a wonderful popular introduction to one of biology’s most fascinating lifestyles.”—Mark Greener Fortean Times: The Journal Of Strange Phenomena
"A very good read! Lots of parasite stories told in a compelling way."—Dickson Despommier, Emeritus Professor, Columbia University

"In her newest book, Rosemary Drisdelle gives us a fresh and exciting spin on the past and current history of parasites; a far too often disdained and ignored presence among us. Drisdelle's anecdotes make one of society's most dreaded entities accessible as well as enjoyable. Parasites and its historical insights have the ability to change society's view of and response to parasites amongst us."—Richard Saffern,
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Interview with the author, Rosemary Drisdelle

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