Medical Parasitology

Medical parasitology traditionally has included the study of three major groups of animals: parasitic protozoa, parasitic helminthes (worms), and those arthropods that directly cause disease or act as vectors of various pathogens. A parasite is a pathogen that simultaneously injures and derives sustenance from its host. Some organisms called parasites are actually commensals, in that they neither benefit nor harm their host (for example, Entamoeba coli).

Infections of humans caused by parasites number in the billions and range from relatively innocuous to fatal. The diseases caused by these parasites constitute major human health problems throughout the world. (For example, approximately 30 percent of the world's population is infected with the nematode Ascaris lumbricoides.)

Other parasitic illnesses have increased in importance as a result of the AIDS epidemic (e.g., cryptosporidiosis, Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, and strongyloidiasis).

 

 

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