BULLETIN: Would you care for a spot of tea with today’s science lesson? Then go to Jama Kim Rattigan’s site. She’s having a tea party. https://www.facebook.com/JamaKimRattigan/posts/10203983103160945
Something I’m working on just gave me an unexpected opportunity to use a bit of my past, my old friend Hymenolepis diminuta. That’s the little tapeworm I studied in my graduate days at Emory. It’s found primarily in rats and I chose it for my research project.
The juvenile form of H. diminuta is carried in the intestines of the confused flour beetle (Tribolium confusum) a tiny beetle that contaminates flour and other ground grains. When a rat swallows an infected beetle, the worm inside it is transferred to the rat where it grows to maturity in the rat’s lower gut and starts passing eggs out through the feces.
Confused flour beetles happen to like rat poop so they become infected and start the cycle over. Isn’t this fascinating? During certain phases of the research I couldn’t leave the lab for long periods so I often arrived at my rented room off campus in a state of exhaustion. I’d grab a few hours of rest and head back to work. One morning I reported to my lab wearing a shirt and pants over the shirt and pants I had crashed in across the bed. I had been in such a weary fog when I got up that I hadn’t realized I’d never taken off my clothes the night before.
Believe it or not, I was for a brief time back in the day one of the few authorities on the rat tapeworm. The problem was that all my fans slept in sewers. Well, I did receive the Sigma Xi award for the best scientific research at the masters level at Emory that year. My life has taken some unexpected turns and twists since then but I’m still a little vain about that recognition.
When I tell people about my first publications, magazine stories in the 60s, I usually forget that my first one was actually titled, “The Growth of the Rat Tapeworm, Hymenolepis Diminuta, During the First Five Days in the Final Host.” It was published in The Journal of Parasitology, October, 1961.
My second publication appeared in The Journal of Pharmacology. By then I’d become a pharmacologist in a pharmaceutical laboratory but that’s another story.