Survival of the Sickest: Chapters 5-6

Throughout all my reading of Survival of the Sickest, chapter 5 was able to fascinate me the most. Chapter 5 gave me a different insight on the purpose and nature of these “pests” we call parasites. Chapter 5 allowed me to see how organisms work in nature, their significance and roles they preform. These chapters have been able to grasp my attention unlike any other chapters I have read. Like all the other chapters in Survival of the Sickest, I appreciate the fact that the reading isn’t directed toward an audience with background in biology knowledge, but it is for everyone and I can really grasp important facts. I truly enjoyed the journey of reading the chapters “Of Microbes and Men” and “Jump into the gene pool”

Chapter 5 allowed me to explore information completely new to my ears, along with a touch of medical history. The most memorable part of this chapter was the discussion on  Dracunuculus medinensis. This extremely long word can be translated into little dragon, a very prevalent problem that is common in Africa and India. Dracunuculus medinensis is known as the Guinea Worm, this is a nematode that grows in humans, cats, dogs and many other animals. This worm grows a whopping 31 inches inside a body and causes a very uncomfortable burning sensation on the skin on an infected person. This worm burns through the skin with an acid it produces, and usually moves in a downward motion, this is why guinea worms are commonly found on the feet and lower legs. One of the only effective method to removing this parasite is through the use of a stick and the guinea worm slowly wraps around the stick until it is out of the human body. This method contributed largely to medicine and benefited doctors and patients. At the same time this procedure became the symbolism of medicine, called The rod of Asclepius. Originally doctors used this sign to advertise their ability to remove this nematode. Nowadays this symbol of a snake wrapped around a staff can be seen in many medical facilities. Survival of the Sickest introduced this new concept to me and inspired me to research more. I have expanded my knowledge of guinea worms and read various medical articles about it. This is one of the many wonders of Survival of the Sickest, it engraves a strong fascination in its readers. Chapter 5 also discussed the natural human tendency to get rid of pests and other intruding animals in our lives, but that every organisms in nature has one role, to survive and reproduce. This made me look and life a little different, the previous contempt I had towards insects and annoying pest made me realize that they are just trying to carry out their role as nature intended it to be. I learned many other facts and concepts in this chapter such as the relationship between humans and microbes living in their body and the unique parasitic relationship between the Toxoplasma gondii, mice and cats. Chapter 6 “Jump into the Gene Pool” was about genetics and DNA, DNA can be modified by random mutations but it can also be modified by gene jumping. Due to environmental stress genes can jump or switch its order, a “copy and paste” motion. Junk DNA is due to the accumulation of jumping genes. Basically we learn the modifications, jumping, mutations and alterations of genes form the ecosystems and organisms found today on the planet. 

My fascination comes with a lot of inquiries, but these two chapters were very detailed and basically cleared up my questions. Although I still wonder about the guinea worm and how they have adapted to thrive and develop in a human body environment. As for DNA jumping, the concept I understand perfectly, but how exactly does DNA “jump.” I have learned about the processes of DNA replication, translation and transcription, but were does DNA jumping fit into this equation?



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