The ugly parasites
Parasites live on or inside a host organism in a very unequal relationship. The parasite takes all of its food from its host and doesn’t give anything back so quite often the parasite makes the host quite ill or causes discomfort.
Parasites like ticks and fleas can make life very uncomfortable. Others like the parasites that cause malaria or typhus can make you very sick. Then there are parasites that can look very ugly! There is a parasite, a family of fungi, called dermatophytes (derma- means anything to do with your ‘skin’) that cause skin infections. These parasites prefer the keratin in your skin, hair or nails and make a scaly patch wherever they grow. The patch can sometimes look like a circle like you see on people who have ringworm. This isn’t a worm at all - it is a fungus that grows in a circle. It can be itchy and uncomfortable and looks pretty ugly.
The same dermatophyte parasites, actually a fungus called trichophyton, causes athletes foot. This fungus can live on skin and socks and floors so it spreads very easily! It needs a warm and moist environment so remember to dry very well between your toes before you put on your socks! Athlete’s foot can cause your foot to be very itchy and it looks very ugly because your skin will crack and sometimes even bleed, which can be painful.
Humans aren’t the only ones to suffer from parasites. Lichens are a partnership between the parasites fungi and algae or bacteria. They live on rocks, stones, walls and the outside of houses. They dig deeper and deeper and can make large holes in the stone or wall. Sometimes, when they are growing, they can look and smell pretty ugly too! Another type of ugly parasite is mold, a type of fungus that grows on bread, fruit, paper, paint, leather or fabrics. Mold destroys the thing it grows on – and it looks pretty ugly in the process!
Ugly parasites are everywhere. Parasites bite, chew, suck your blood and have body parts that are specially made to make this easy for them to do! Avoid them if you can – make sure your personal hygiene is good and that your environment is clean and tidy. Parasites don’t look pretty, unless of course you think they look pretty ugly!
Did you know…?
The study of parasites, their hosts and the relationship between them is called parasitology?
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