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New Parasite That Kills 200k a Year Named After Barack Obama

OK, this has nothing to do with Russia...but how can we resist?


Outgoing US President Barack Obama will not only leave his mark on history as a Nobel Peace Prize-winning two-term leader, but also as a man who provided the name for a parasitic flatworm linked to some 200,000 deaths annually.

The parasite, called Baracktrema obamai, was discovered in Malaysia, according to an August report in the Journal of Parasitology. Appearing to be a new species of flatworm, it is the first discovery of its kind in decades. B. obamai looks like a thread and lives in the lungs of black marsh turtles and southeast Asian box turtles. It is believed to be a relative of the flatworms that trigger schistosomiasis, a deadly illness killing somewhere between 20,000 and 200,000 people each year, according to World Health Organization data.

The B. obamai parasite can get into a turtle’s circulatory system, laying dozens of eggs in the small blood vessels in the lung, researchers discovered. According to the study, tens to hundreds of fluke eggs have been found in turtle’s lung alveoli, though it’s still undetermined how the eggs get outside.

The deadly flatworm was named after the US President by the parasitologist who discovered the species. Thomas R. Platt, who has spent decades scrutinizing turtle viruses, claims to be a distant relative of President Obama. The scientist pointed out that their common ancestor, a man called, George Frederick Toot, lived in the late-18th century.

“It is a unique component of the diversity of life on this planet,” he said to the LA Times, commenting on species naming rights for posterity. “Anyone should consider it an honor.”

Previously, researchers have honored President Obama by naming a fish, a trapdoor spider and extinct insect-eating lizard after him.

 


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