A parasite called Barack Obama

È stata scoperta una nuova specie di parassita che vive nelle tartarughe, ed è stata battezzata come il presidente degli Stati Uniti, Barack Obama.

Someone may be offended if a parasite – an animal with a really bad reputation – was named after him or her. But we believe that US President Barack Obama has the right sense of humour to appreciate a similar tribute.

Barack Obama
The new parasite is not the first animal to be named after Barack Obama: a fish, a spider and a dinausar have also been named after him.

Baracktrema obamai

A new species of parasite has been classified in Malaysia. It lives in the blood of two species of freshwater turtles, the black marsh turtle (Siebenrockiella crassicollis) and the southeast Asian box turtle (Cuora amboinensis), and has been named Baracktrema obamai, in honour of the President of the United States.

Baracktrema obamai
Sketch of the new parasite discovered in Malaysia that lives in turtles’ blood, the Baracktrema obamai

A tribute to President Obama

The new parasite, described in the August issue of the Journal of Parasitology, is a minuscule flat worm, with a long, threadlike body. Thomas R. Platt, who led the group of parasitologists, is a distant relative of the president and decided to pay tribute to Obama by naming the worm after him. “It’s an honour,” said Platt. “People pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of having a species named after them”.

 black marsh turtle
A black marsh turtle (Siebenrockiella crassicollis), one of the two turtle species attacked by the Baracktrema obamai

This worm could help fight human parasites

According to scientists, the Baracktrema obamai is an incredibly resilient organism that lays its eggs in turtles’ pulmonary alveolus. When eggs hatch, the blood gets infected. However, the entire process isn’t still completely clear to scientists. The parasites “are distant relatives and likely ancestors of the parasitic flatworms that cause the human disease schistosomiasis, a devastating disease that debilitates millions of people in developing countries annually”. Studying the new parasite could shed light on how it develops and improve our knowledge on how to fight the disease that continues to hit human beings.

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