Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What do parasitologists eat for dessert?

These are the kinds of vectors I don't mind in my kitchen.

This beautiful vector-themed tart is the creation of Italian parasitologist Fabrizio Montarsi (you can read some of his work here).

When he is not collecting mosquitos in the Alps with his wonderful colleague and fiance Patrizia (a veterinarian and mycologist, currently undertaking a PhD on cryptococcus spp.), Fabri whips up masterpieces in the kitchen. 

On the left is a tick - but not any old tick. This is Rhipicephalus sanguineus or the brown dog tick, the most widespread tick in the world and vector of loads of pathogens including Rickettsia spp. In fact, the brown dog tick has been bothering dogs forever - even being retrieved from an ancient Egyptian dog mummy (you can read about that work, lead by Professor Dominico Otranto, here). But its distribution is changing and that alters the epidemiology of many tick-borne diseases.

On the right is the sand fly, Phlebotomus perniciosus, vector of Leishmania spp. We are fortunate enough not to have this disease in Australia, but that could change. I love a dessert that is delicious AND thought provoking!!!

I've seen other veterinary themed cakes, but Fabrizio's creation has an elegance and is abstract enough to be edible.

And if this has you excited about vector-borne diseases, I highly recommend Peter Irwin's paper, discussed here, on the way veterinarians need to change the way they think about VBDs.