Questions for “How wriggling, blood-eating parasitic worms alter the body”

a microscopic image showing the head of a hookworm. The worm has suckers just below two rows of spikes.

Terrifying much? This tapeworm and many kinds of parasitic worms have spikes and suckers on their heads. They use these to attach themselves to the inside of their host’s gut.

selvanegra/iStock/Getty Images Plus

To accompany feature “How wriggling, blood-eating parasitic worms alter the body


Before Reading:

1. What is a parasite? Name at least one parasite that affects people or pets.

2. Are parasites good, bad, neither or both? Explain your assessment of them.

During Reading:

1.  How did Alex Loukas get hookworms? Explain why he got them.

2.  Describe the life cycle of the hookworm — its life stages and where it spends each one.

3.  What characteristic of parasitic worms leads some researchers to think worms could help treat human disease? Which diseases might be good targets and why? Use what you read in the story to support your answer.

4.  How does Loukas’ team get fresh hookworm larvae for its research?

5.  According to Rick Maizels’ research, what kind of immune cell do parasitic worms affect? What function do those cells have?

6.  Describe the methods Loukas’ team is using to study how hookworms affect these immune cells.

7.  What does Oyebola Oyesola mean by a “weep and sweep”? What purpose does it serve?

8.  In Maizels’ work, how did worm spit affect the growth of mouse guts?

9.  What problems do large and repeated worm infections cause?

10.  Why is it challenging to design a vaccine against parasitic worms? How is Peter Hotez trying to get around this problem?

After Reading:

1.  This story describes research both to treat diseases using parasitic worms and research aimed at problems caused by parasitic worms. If you were a researcher and had just enough money and supplies to work on one of these areas, which would you choose — and why?

2.  What was your initial reaction to reading about Alex Loukas’ hookworms? If you worked in his research group, would you be willing to get worms? Why or why not?