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Their cat coughed this up and they thought that I might like it.

So, in my hands here I have something called Trichuris; these are whip worms so these many, many whip worms, thousands of whip worms in there, don’t know if you can see them. So, these are a parasite that we study a lot in Manchester, so whip worms affect one in four of the human population and whip worm species affect most mammalian species as well, and we’re interested in Manchester, we’re studying the biology of these so, for example, how can we understand their life cycle better or how the eggs hatch because that will be very important in making new treatments to prevent infection. We’re also looking at vaccine development to treat infection, but we’re also looking at how they can help you.  So in the West, we’ve got rid of infections like these, we used to have them, we don’t have them any more.  And we’ve got a lot of allergies and autoimmune diseases.  And people now think it’s maybe partly that we’ve got rid of these sorts of worms and these worms may be beneficial, so we’ve been studying how these worms may help you, so we’re looking at things that they make and seeing how that affects the immune system.

This parasite’s got a little bit of a story, so there are many types of parasitic worms and this is a roundworm.  We’re quite imaginative, as you can imagine, parasitologists, it’s called roundworm because it is round, it’s long and and round.  And all species get roundworm, the human equivalent is called ascaris and it’s a good deal bigger than this. So one ascaris is about the length of your arm to your finger tip and is probably about that thick [thickness of a pound coin].  Again, these affect about one in four people, again, not in this part of the world but they were very common infections in this part of the world.  King Richard, when they found his body in the car park they subsequently realised that he’d had a roundworm infection, an ascaris infection, and we can find evidence of that in many human remains. 

So this one here is actually from a cat, it kind of says a lot about where my job has taken me!  So someone at work, they de-wormed their cat and their cat coughed this up and they thought that I might like it.  So this is Toxascaris leonina, there are two species of this that infect cats and dogs, this one has obviously come from a cat, and it’s worth highlighting that you can become infected from toxicara as a human from cat or dog poo and although we’re not the natural host for it unfortunately it can cause disease in humans and it has been associated with blindness, so this is one of the reasons that you should deal with your cat or dog poo.

- Dr Sheena Cruickshank