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People, Parasites, and Plowshares

Learning from Our Body's Most Terrifying Invaders

Dickson D. Despommier William C. Campbell

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Columbia University Press
18 March 2016
Dickson D. Despommier's vivid, visceral account of the biology, behavior, and history of parasites follows the interplay between these fascinating life forms and human society over thousands of years. Despommier focuses on long-term host-parasite associations, which have evolved to avoid or even subvert the human immune system. Some parasites do great damage to their hosts, while others have signed a kind of peace treaty in exchange for their long lives within them. Many parasites also practice clever survival strategies that medical scientists hope to mimic as they search for treatments for Crohn's disease, food allergies, type 1 diabetes, organ transplantation, and other medical challenges.

Despommier concentrates on particularly remarkable and often highly pathogenic organisms, describing their lifecycles and the mechanisms they use to avoid elimination. He details their attack and survival plans and the nature of the illnesses they cause in general terms, enabling readers of all backgrounds to steal a glimpse into the secret work of such effective invaders. He also points to the cultural contexts in which these parasites thrive and reviews the current treatments available to defeat them. Encouraging scientists to continue to study these organisms even if their threat is largely contained, Despommier shows how closer dissection of the substances parasites produce to alter our response to them could help unravel some of our most complex medical conundrums.
By:   Dickson D. Despommier
Foreword by:   William C. Campbell
Imprint:   Columbia University Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 229mm,  Width: 152mm,  Spine: 15mm
Weight:   397g
ISBN:   9780231161954
ISBN 10:   0231161956
Pages:   240
Publication Date:   18 March 2016
Audience:   General/trade ,  Professional and scholarly ,  ELT Advanced ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active
Foreword by William C. CampbellPrefaceAcknowledgments1. This New House: Trichinalla spiralis2. Hooked on Parasites: Ancylostoma duodenale and Necator americanus3. Houdini's Nefarious Cousins: The Trypanosomes, the Schistosomes, and the Lymphatic Filariae4. A Parasite for All Seasons: Toxoplasma gondii5. The Unholy Trinity: Ascaris lumbricoides, Trichuris trichiura, and theHookworms6. The Long and the Short of It: Tapeworms--Taenia saginata, Taenia solium, Diphyllobothrium latum, Echinococcus granulosus, and Echinococcus multilocularis7. All's Well That Ends Wells: Dracunculus medinensis8. Nature Has All the Answers. What's Your Question?GlossaryFurther ReadingIndex

Dickson D. Despommier is emeritus professor of public health and microbiology at Columbia University. For thirty-eight years, he taught parasitic diseases to second year medical students at Columbia's medical school. He has won numerous teaching awards, including the prestigious Golden Apple Award for Teaching Excellence from the American Medical Students Association. He is the author of more than seventy peer-reviewed research articles, numerous reviews, and three books, including The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the Twenty-First Century. William C. Campbell is a retired senior research scientist at Merck, Inc., Rahway, New Jersey, and winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine. He discovered and helped develop the drugs thiabendazole, ivermectin, and related derivatives. Both parent compounds have helped to reduce or eliminate certain parasitic worm infections in cattle and humans. He is a world renowned expert on drug discovery, a former president of the American Society for Parasitologists, and is currently a RISE associate at Drew University.

Reviews for People, Parasites, and Plowshares: Learning from Our Body's Most Terrifying Invaders

A well-written and fascinating introduction to human parasitology from an intriguing, seldom-used perspective: how we can learn from parasites to achieve medical breakthroughs. -- Rod Adam, University of Arizona Dickson D. Despommier's approach is unique, easy going, and insightful. His book will appeal to both scientists and laypeople interested in science and medicine--and will be of particular interest to travelers to exotic places. -- Robert Gwadz, National Institutes of Health There's a lot to learn from a tapeworm. Parasites have evolved stunningly successful strategies for thriving in our bodies for millions of years. Drawing on his long career as a parasitologist, Dickson D. Despommier explores the lessons we can gain from our passengers, creating a fascinating tour of the parasitic world. -- Carl Zimmer, author of A Planet of Viruses and Parasite Rex [An] illuminating book... Despommier is an excellent popularizer, lacing his accounts of our invaders' ingenuity with history and anecdotes that underscore how grateful a modern society should be for clean drinking water and sanitary facilities. Kirkus Reviews Reading this book may make your skin crawl... The facts are horrifying and fascinating... As Despommier argues, these body snatchers deserve respect. -- Marissa Fessenden Scientific American [People, Parasites, and Plowshares] chronicles the discovery--and destructive treachery--of parasites as well as the promise they offer modern medicine in curing a number of diseases. Washington Post [People, Parasites, and Plowshares] beautifully balances history and pathology. -- Dave Lee Discover A rich, fulsome feast. It is also a gift to tropical medicine. American Journal of Tropical Medicine An informative and entertaining view of parasitic life cycle and resulting human diseases. CHOICE Despommier's writing is precise, clear, and up to date... I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in parasitology. -- Scott L. Gardner BioScience


  • Commended for Honorable Mention - PROSE Award in Biomedicine & Neuroscience 2013

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