Parasitologist

Parasitology is the study of parasites, their modes of infection and transmission, diseases caused by parasites, and immune responses to them. It is a specialization within the agricultural, biological and veterinary sciences.


More than half of all living things survive by parasitism, living on or within other animals or plants. For example, the list of animals that can be classified as parasites may include ticks, fleas, lice, tapeworms, flukes, intestinal roundworms, many protozoa, the larvae of some insects and some crustaceans.

Parasitology is a dynamic field since the relationships between parasites and their hosts are constantly changing. Parasitism is defined as an ecological relationship between two individuals of different species where the parasite’s environment is another living organism. Unlike the environment of free-living plants and animals, the environment of the parasite can fight back! Parasites and hosts are locked in a continual struggle for survival, and understanding the mechanisms that each side in this battle uses to gain advantages, challenges parasitologists to understand biological phenomena at the cutting edge of a wide variety of scientific disciplines.

Some parasites create health problems for people, domestic animals, livestock and marine life, while others also have a negative impact on crop production. Parasitologists contribute to attempts to alleviate these problems by researching the evolution, life cycle, taxonomy, biology, ecology, pathology, and epidemiology of parasites, as well as the treatment of infections caused by parasitic interactions. They combine traditional and modern methods in biology to address the range of problems associated with parasites and hosts, including immunology and the study of symbiosis.

Different career options in parasitology are as follows:


  • veterinary - diseases of domestic animals, e.g. biliary, and worms which can be transmitted to humans

  • medical - human diseases, often carried by insects, such as malaria, typhus, bubonic plague, tick-bite fever, etc

  • agriculture and aquaculture - helping to prevent parasitic infection of crops, which can cause heavy losses

  • pharmaceutical - development of chemotherapeutic drugs which eliminate or control parasites

  • wildlife and fisheries - protection of animals in their natural environment

  • biochemistry and molecular biology - genetic advances and development of diagnostic tools for the detection and diagnosis of parasites

  • immunoparasitology - the development of protection against parasites, equivalent to that provided by vaccines against viruses.


Employment


  • universities and colleges

  • education and government departments

  • medical institutes

  • research organisations

  • veterinary colleges

  • fisheries and marine life institutes

  • pharmaceutical companies


Getting Started


  • speak to a parasitologist about this career

  • work on your computer skills and read up on parasites

  • try and do voluntary work as a laboratory assistant, hospital orderly or attendant


Programmes

Botswana International University of Science and Technology, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Multimedia University of Kenya, Namibia University of Science and Technology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, University of Dar Es Salaam, University of Johannesburg, University of Stellenbosch


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