In the first post of this blog (Introduction), I alluded to something that altered the way I live my life forever. You may have noticed a few unusual things about me already, particularly the fact that my name will never appear in the parasitological literature. This is because I must publish under a pseudonym, for reasons that I will now explain. Those of you unwilling to hear of a humble parasitologist suffering torment for his attention to detail and scientific rigour should perhaps tune into something more lighthearted.
It all happened about a year ago, when I was called upon to save a remote Scottish community from being wiped out by a mysterious parasitic disease that been brought in from Paraguay by some returning tourists. An adventurous young family had been on a two month hike in the Paraguay jungle, but had returned early when one of their member (poor father) took a bad turn. By the time they landed he was feeling very poorly indeed. They sped from Glasgow airport to the nearest A&E, where he was given some antibiotics and told to lie down. So they drove to their isolated farm (the location has never been revealed to the outside world for fear of reprisals and loss of tourist revenue) and put their father to bed. He seemed stable for the next 24 hours but then suddenly went downhill. His temperature shot up and he rapidly became delirious. Fearing the end was near, his wife summoned their doctor (who lived 15 miles away). But whilst the medic was on his way, the ailing father, now in a state of advanced delirium announced that he was no longer in love with his wife, and wished to see his favourite black-faced sheep, Jemima, before he passed away. Such was his insistence that Jemima was his one true love that the children went to the field and grabbed hold of the first sheep they could find (a sheep of no-name as it happened). They dragged the animal upstairs to their fathers bedroom and tied her to the bed-post. Their father told them, in no uncertain terms, to leave the room, which they did in floods of tears, fearing for the safety of both their father and the sheep. They heard a key turn as they stood on the landing, and moments later the sound of hooves stamping across the wooden floor. They tried to open the door with the handle but couldn't, and neither the children nor the mother could push it open. Eventually the noise subsided and all they could hear was the gentle groans of a dying man.
Soon the doctor arrived, who managed to force the door open (dislocating his shoulder in the process). As the door swung inwards there was an almighty clatter of hooves on the wooden floor and the sheep-with-no-name, sporting a gag and a pair of sunglasses, fled the room, it's eyes revealing nothing but abject panic. Their poor father was lying semi-naked on the floor of the bed, his face contorted and his veins blue. He had quite clearly expired. The children screamed, the mother almost fainted, but the doctor, suspecting something odd may have happend, simply shouted 'CATCH THAT F**KING SHEEP'
By now the sheep-with-no-name had left the house and was tearing back towards the field. The gag fell out and the sunglasses fell off into the muddy ground. The other sheep scattered, scared first by the sight and sounds of one of their own running headlong into them, and then by the sight and sounds of a corpulent middle-aged man huffing, puffing, sweating and swearing for the 'f**king stupid animal' to 'f**king stop'. But almost as soon as it had started, it was all over. The sheep with no name became lost in the scattering herd, and the doctor fell unconscious onto the mud, having run out of breath within fifteen seconds of starting his sprint (not breathing during heavy exercise is not recommended, and the good doctor should have known better).
To cut a long story short, three days later half the herd was dead or dying. The authorities were called in and the herd was culled. Post-mortem analyses revealed aone or more tiny parasitic worms, never before encountered, in the heart of each animal. The worms had been eating away at the walls of the heart, leading to massive disruption of the circulation. The worm was also present in the heart of the poor father, and fear gripped the local community that other people and livestock were at risk......