"In the midst of parasites"

Special exhibition gives fascinating insights

Parasite in Enlargement Senckenbergische Naturforschende Gesellschaft
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Mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, amoebae, roundworms or tapeworms - wherever there is life, parasites can also be found. They live on, in and from other creatures, often to the detriment of their hosts, but sometimes also to their benefit. The special exhibition "In the midst of parasites" shows the fascinating world of the little "blackheads" until September 25, 2005 in the Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt.

As highly developed, often highly variable and adaptable organisms, parasites are a top performer of evolution. No living space was left out if it offered a minimum of survival. "Live and let live" is the successful basic strategy that enables them to "parasitize" in a host over a long period of time and to produce offspring.

The new special exhibition in the Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt presents some of these "blackheads" in whose midst we live or who we bring from warmer regions as "travel souvenirs". Numerous vivid illustrations show the often bizarre-looking parasites in several magnifications, from which visitors can even view some under the microscope. As evidence of the infestation by whipworm eggs, a replica of the 5, 300-year-old "Ötztal Glacier Mummy" is on display as a special highlight. In addition to the presentation of the preferred host animals, the transmission paths, the resulting dangers and avoidance strategies are also clearly explained.

Parasites are not picky

Above all the internal organs of the host animals as well as blood vessels, muscles, body cells, skin, glands or hair are in the center of the parasite life. They offer them dwelling and food at the same time. Because derived from the Greek "para sitos" means the word parasite "blackheads" on a board - with often unpleasant consequences for the host. For example, millions of people suffer from parasitically transmitted infections, which can often severely impair their quality of life or even lead to death. In Central Europe, it is estimated that 40 to 50 percent of the population become acquainted with parasites during their lifetime. But parasites are by no means a plague of modern times. Because even in fossil finds you can find parasitic housemates and already in ancient civilizations knew a number of worms that caused disease.

Medical wonder drug

Parasite enlarged © Senckenbergische Naturforschende Gesellschaft

Controlled and targeted, however, parasites also act as wound healing agents. For centuries, doctors have been praising leeches that use sharp pines to cut wounds in the skin of the "victim." Special enzymes prevent blood clotting and anesthetize and allow a pain-free "bloodletting". Also some fly maggots are currently making a comeback. More accurate than a surgeon, they are able to remove dead wound tissue and induce drug-free healing. display

The exhibition picks up on all these facets of parasitic life and, apart from fear and disgust, reveals above all the biodiversity of the animals and their sophisticated strategies of finding hosts. In addition to the exhibition, an accompanying brochure is available in the museum shop, providing basic information about parasites, transmission pathways and parasitic diseases.

(Senckenbergische Naturforschende Gesellschaft, 30.08.2005 - AHE)