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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Masters of Disguise

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Narrator: A HIGH-SCHOOL SENIOR FALLS VICTIM TO A VEILED ATTACKER.

IT WAS AN ACTUAL CREATURE, A LIVING CREATURE, IN MY EYE.

Narrator: A DOCTOR BATTLES A DEADLY ENEMY

THAT'S BEEN HIDING IN HIS BODY FOR 60 YEARS.

HE LOOKED AWFUL.

HE LOOKED LIKE HE WAS ON DEATH'S DOOR.

Narrator: AND A RUNNER FINDS THERE'S NO ESCAPE

FROM A KILLER CONCEALED IN HIS BLOOD.

I'M RESIGNED TO THE FACT THAT I HAVE CANCER.

Narrator: THREE VERY DIFFERENT PARASITES

THAT ALL USE THE SAME STRATEGY TO PREY ON THEIR HOSTS.

THEY ARE CUNNING.

THEY ARE DECEPTIVE.

THEY ARE MASTERS OF DISGUISE.

WORMS INVISIBLE TO THE HUMAN EYE.

INSECTS THIRSTY FOR BLOOD.

MICROSCOPIC AMOEBA.

THEY MIGHT LOOK HARMLESS,

BUT THESE ARE SOME OF NATURE'S DEADLIEST CREATURES.

THEY CAN HIJACK OUR BODIES,

DISABLE OUR IMMUNE SYSTEMS.

THEY ARE PARASITES.

BUT TO THOSE INFECTED, THEY ARE THE MONSTERS INSIDE ME.

PARASITES SURVIVE BY USING

OTHER LIVING ORGANISMS FOR FOOD AND SHELTER.

Riskin: PARASITES HAVE EVOLVED TO LIVE IN EVERY KIND OF ORGANISM

IN EVERY KIND OF ENVIRONMENT ON THE ENTIRE PLANET.

ALL PARASITES FACE THE SAME CHALLENGE.

THEY NEED TO GET INTO OR ONTO A HOST

AND STAY THERE LONG ENOUGH TO REPRODUCE.

ONE OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL STRATEGIES THAT PARASITES EMPLOY

IS DECEPTION.

Narrator: SOME PARASITES ARE SO WELL-DISGUISED,

IT'S ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO SEE THEM COMING,

AS ONE TEENAGER IS ABOUT TO FIND OUT.

AUGUST 2008, CHICAGO.

16-YEAR-OLD MALLORY GREINER IS AT THE END OF HER SUMMER BREAK.

Mallory: I LIKE TO DO A LOT OF THINGS.

I PLAY ALTO SAXOPHONE IN THE BAND AT SCHOOL.

I LIKE TO GO ON THE INTERNET, LIKE A LOT OF TEENAGERS.

I LIKE TO PLAY VIDEO GAMES A LOT.

I LIKE TO LEARN ABOUT SHARKS.

IT'S SOMETHING I KIND OF WANT TO DO WHEN I'M OLDER.

Narrator: SHE'S UNAWARE THAT HER CAREFREE TEENAGE LIFE

IS ABOUT TO CHANGE FOREVER.

THE NIGHT BEFORE HER FIRST DAY BACK AT SCHOOL,

MALLORY HAS TICKETS TO SEE HER FAVORITE BOY BAND,

THE JONAS BROTHERS.

I AM GOING TO SIT FOUR ROWS FROM THE CATWALK

TO SEE NICK, KEVIN, AND JOE JONAS,

AND I AM REALLY EXCITED ABOUT DOING THAT.

I JUST WANT TO GO TO MY CONCERT AND HAVE A GOOD TIME.

Narrator: WHEN THE CONCERT STARTS, THE SPECTACULAR LIGHT SHOW

HAS AN UNEXPECTED EFFECT ON MALLORY.

Mallory: THE LIGHTS ARE BOTHERING ME AT THE CONCERT.

IT REALLY FEELS LIKE THERE IS SOMETHING IN MY EYE,

BUT IN SO MUCH PAIN, AND IT'S JUST VERY IRRITATING,

AND THE LIGHT HURTS IT WHEN ANY LIGHT GETS INTO IT,

AND IT JUST CAUSES MORE PAIN.

Narrator: BUT WHEN THE CONCERT ENDS, THE PAIN CONTINUES.

Mallory: MY DAD IS DRIVING ME BACK HOME.

MY EYE IS REALLY STARTING TO HURT AT THIS POINT.

OF COURSE, I'M TIRED

FROM EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED THAT NIGHT,

BUT IT'S JUST A LOT MORE PAIN.

I AM PUTTING MY HAND TO MY EYE,

TRYING TO RELIEVE THE PAIN SOMEHOW,

'CAUSE THE PASSING CAR LIGHTS ARE BOTHERING ME A LOT.

Narrator: MALLORY GOES TO BED,

HOPING THAT THE PROBLEM WILL CLEAR UP ON ITS OWN.

THE NEXT MORNING,

SHE WAKES UP TO SPEND HER FIRST DAY AS A SENIOR.

THE EYE WAS IN SO MUCH MORE EXTREME PAIN

THAN THE NIGHT BEFORE,

AND THE SUN IS COMING IN FROM MY BLINDS,

AND IT'S HURTING IT REALLY, REALLY BAD.

I CALL OUT FOR MY MOM.

SHE COMES RUNNING IN TO SEE IF I'M OKAY.

THE ONLY THING I CAN DO IS JUST HOLD MY EYE.

IT HURT TO THE POINT WHERE I WAS JUST ALMOST ON THE FLOOR.

SHE COLLAPSED TO THE FLOOR,

SO I BEGAN TO TRY TO HELP HER TO GET DRESSED.

MY EYE IS LOOKING EXTREMELY RED, AS RED AS A FIRE TRUCK.

IT LOOKS TOTALLY BLOODSHOT.

Narrator: MALLORY IS IN SO MUCH PAIN

THAT SHE CAN'T WEAR HER CONTACT LENSES

AND IS FORCED TO WEAR HER GLASSES INSTEAD.

CONCERNED ABOUT HER CONDITION, MALLORY'S MOTHER, MARSHA,

TAKES HER TO SEE A LOCAL OPHTHALMOLOGIST.

Mallory: HE ISN'T SURE EXACTLY WHAT'S THERE.

HE TELLS ME IT COULD BE TWO THINGS.

SHE COULD HAVE SOME TYPE OF AN EYE INFECTION OR HERPES.

EITHER WAY, IT WAS A BAD SITUATION.

Narrator: THE HERPES VIRUS USUALLY CAUSES COLD SORES IN THE LIPS.

IF A PERSON TOUCHES A COLD SORE AND THEN TOUCHES THEIR EYE,

THE VIRUS CAN SPREAD.

ALL I'M THINKING IS, HOW IN THE WORLD DID THAT GET IN MY EYE?

AND KIND OF ALMOST LAUGHING AT THAT POINT

BECAUSE I'M A TEENAGER, AND, YOU KNOW, THAT'S WHAT I DO.

[ CHUCKLES ]

Narrator: OCULAR HERPES MIGHT SOUND BAD,

BUT IT CAN BE EASILY TREATED WITH ANTIVIRAL EYEDROPS.

THE DOCTOR IS CONCERNED

THAT MALLORY HAS A MORE SERIOUS INFECTION,

BUT HE CAN'T BE SURE,

SO HE REFERS HER TO A SPECIALIST.

DR. TU OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS IN CHICAGO

IS AN EXPERT IN CORNEAL DISEASES.

Dr. Tu: WELL, MALLORY WAS SENT IN TO US

BASICALLY TO TRY TO DIFFERENTIATE

THE INFECTION SHE HAD IN HER CORNEA

AMONG A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT DISORDERS,

INCLUDING OCULAR HERPES.

IT IS VERY DIFFICULT TO TELL

WITHOUT SPECIAL INSTRUMENTATION AND CULTURES

EXACTLY WHAT'S GOING ON.

Narrator: FIRST, DR. TU TAKES PHOTOGRAPHS

OF THE STRUCTURES DEEP IN MALLORY'S EYE.

Mallory: THIS BIG MACHINE LOOKS INTO MY EYE,

AND IT BRINGS UP PICTURES ON HIS COMPUTER

SO I'M ABLE TO LOOK AND SEE WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE

AND WHAT'S BEEN IN MY EYE.

Narrator: THE IMAGES CONFIRM THAT MALLORY'S CORNEA IS INFECTED,

BUT NOT WITH HERPES.

TO DISCOVER WHAT THE INFECTION IS,

DR. TU MUST PERFORM A DELICATE PROCEDURE

CALLED A CORNEAL SCRAPING.

USING A STERILIZED METAL SPATULA,

DR. TU MUST SCRAPE LIVING CELLS FROM THE SURFACE OF THE CORNEA.

THE TECHNIQUE REQUIRES A STEADY HAND.

ONE FALSE MOVE, AND MALLORY COULD BE BLINDED.

MALLORY'S FATHER WAITS OUTSIDE, AS HE CAN'T BEAR TO WATCH.

HER MOTHER LOOKS ON HELPLESSLY.

MY HEART SUNK, BUT I HAD TO REMIND MYSELF

THAT I NEEDED TO BE STRONG FOR HER.

HE HAD HIS BURNER OUT TO STERILIZE HIS INSTRUMENT,

AND I'M THINKING TO MYSELF,

"HE'S NOT GOING TO PUT THAT IN HER EYE."

Mallory: AT THAT POINT, I'M JUST -- IS IT GONNA HURT?

AND HE NUMBS MY EYE,

AND HE JUST TAKES THIS SPATULA AND SCRAPES MY EYE.

Narrator: THE SAMPLES ARE PUT ON A SLIDE AND EXAMINED UNDER A MICROSCOPE.

Dr. Tu: AFTER WE OBTAINED THE IMAGES, IT'S REAL TIME,

SO I HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY

TO SHOW MALLORY AND HER PARENTS EXACTLY WHAT'S GOING ON.

Narrator: AND THERE IS A LOT GOING ON.

ON THE EYE SURFACE, ON THE PICTURES,

IT LOOKS LIKE LITTLE WHITE CLUMPS OF DOTS.

Narrator: THESE MICROSCOPIC DOTS

ARE ABOUT TO CHANGE MALLORY'S LIFE FOREVER.

Narrator: TEENAGER MALLORY GREINER IS ABOUT TO

FIND OUT EXACTLY WHAT IS LURKING IN HER EYEBALL.

HE SAYS THAT THE DOTS ARE, IN FACT,

A PARASITE THAT IS LIVING IN MY EYE.

Narrator: THE PARASITE IS A VICIOUS MICROSCOPIC ORGANISM

CALLED AN ACANTHAMOEBA.

Dr. Tu: WE WERE ABLE TO COME BACK AND TELL HER DEFINITIVELY

SHE DID HAVE AN ACANTHAMOEBA INFECTION.

YOU CAN SEE THAT THERE ARE THESE BRIGHT WHITE DOTS,

WHICH ARE REALLY AMOEBA.

SO, THESE ARE ACTIVE, AND THESE ARE ACTUALLY THE ONES

THAT ARE SORT OF MOVING AROUND A BIT AND ACTIVELY EATING

AND DOING DIFFERENT THINGS IN THE CORNEA.

Riskin: THE ACANTHAMOEBA

IS A SINGLE-CELLED ORGANISM THAT FEEDS ON BACTERIA.

IT CAN LIVE ALMOST ANYWHERE IT CAN FIND A FOOD SOURCE.

AND ONE OF THE PLACES THAT BACTERIA NATURALLY OCCUR

IS IN THE HUMAN EYE.

Dr. Tu: THEY HAVE A WAY OF PENETRATING THE SKIN LAYER

AND THEN GETTING DEEPER INTO THE CORNEA

AND BASICALLY SETTING UP SHOP THERE.

SO, THEY'RE BASICALLY LOOKING FOR A HOME AND ALSO FOR FOOD.

Narrator: THE AMOEBA SECRETES PROTEINS

THAT DISSOLVE THE SURFACE OF THE CORNEA.

ONCE IN THE CORNEA,

THE PARASITE FEEDS ON BACTERIA PRESENT IN THE EYE.

BUT BACTERIA AREN'T THEIR ONLY FOOD SOURCE.

THE AMOEBA ALSO FEEDS ON CORNEAL CELLS,

CAUSING TISSUE DAMAGE AND INFLAMMATION.

PATIENTS CAN GO ON TO NEEDING CORNEAL TRANSPLANTS,

AND A CERTAIN PERCENTAGE ACTUALLY DO LOSE THEIR EYE

FROM THE INFECTION, AS WELL, SO IT IS A VERY SERIOUS DISEASE.

Narrator: THIS PARASITIC INFECTION IS CALLED ACANTHAMOEBA KERATITIS.

THE PARASITE CAN DAMAGE THE EYE SO BADLY

THAT MALLORY COULD LOSE HER CORNEA,

HER SIGHT, AND EVENTUALLY THE EYEBALL ITSELF.

Mallory: I FELT KIND OF A LITTLE SCARED ABOUT IT

BECAUSE OF THE FACT THAT IT WAS SOMETHING LIVING IN MY EYE.

IT WAS AN ACTUAL CREATURE THAT'S EATING MY EYE.

Marsha: THE WORST-CASE SCENARIO WOULD BE THAT SHE WOULD LOSE HER EYESIGHT

AND PERHAPS NEED A CORNEA TRANSPLANT.

Narrator: SO, HOW DID THESE PARASITES GET INTO MALLORY'S EYE?

WELL, ACANTHAMOEBA IS REALLY A REMARKABLE ORGANISM.

IT CAN SURVIVE IN MANY DIFFERENT ENVIRONMENTS,

AND IT'S ACTUALLY FOUND BOTH IN WATER AND SOIL.

THEY TEND TO HANG AROUND AND LIVE IN CONTACT-LENS CASES

AND ALSO ON CONTACT-LENS SURFACES.

AND SO, IF YOU PUT THAT INTO THE EYE, THE AMOEBA HAS ACCESS.

Narrator: EVEN A MICROSCOPIC SCRATCH FROM A CONTACT LENS

CAN BE ENOUGH FOR THE ACANTHAMOEBA TO TAKE HOLD.

THE BAD NEWS FOR MALLORY IS THAT KILLING THIS PARASITE

IS EXTREMELY DIFFICULT

BECAUSE THE ACANTHAMOEBA IS A MASTER OF DISGUISE.

ACANTHAMOEBA HAS TWO SEPARATE FORMS.

IT CAN BE ACTIVE WHEN IT'S FEEDING

AND MOVING AROUND AND LIVING OFF OF ITS ENVIRONMENT.

WHEN THE ENVIRONMENT BECOMES HOSTILE,

AN ACANTHAMOEBA CAN GO FROM ITS ACTIVE FEEDING STAGE

INTO A CYST, WHERE IT'S VERY TOUGH AND PROTECTED

AND CAN WAIT FOR THINGS TO GET BETTER.

THE ACANTHAMOEBA HAS A GREAT STRATEGY.

IT CAN ACTUALLY CHANGE ITS IDENTITY.

Dr. Tu: ACANTHAMOEBA HAS THE TWO FORMS, AND, REALLY,

WHEN IT'S CHALLENGED IN ANY WAY, INCLUDING MEDICATIONS,

THEY HAVE A TENDENCY TO HUNKER DOWN

INTO THESE VERY THICK-WALLED CYSTS,

AND IT'S VERY DIFFICULT

TO GET ANY MEDICATION TO PENETRATE THROUGH THEM.

THOSE CYSTS ARE VERY HARDY AND VERY DIFFICULT TO KILL

AND CAN LIVE A VERY LONG TIME.

Narrator: THE ONLY WAY TO KILL THE PARASITE

IS WITH A COMBINATION OF POWERFUL ANTISEPTICS.

ONE OF THEM IS THE SAME CHEMICAL USED TO CLEAN SWIMMING POOLS.

MALLORY MUST ADHERE TO A STRICT REGIME,

TAKING THE MEDICATION AS OFTEN AS 12 TIMES A DAY.

AFTER THREE MONTHS,

SHE STARTS TO SEE A CHANGE IN HER CONDITION.

Mallory: IT IS GRADUALLY GETTING BETTER.

MOSTLY THE PAIN, I NOTICE, IS GETTING A LOT BETTER.

THERE'S STILL A LOT OF LIGHT SENSITIVITY,

BUT IT DEFINITELY HAS IMPROVED SINCE I FIRST STARTED THIS.

Narrator: MALLORY HAS NOW BEEN OFF THE MEDICATION FOR THREE MONTHS,

AND HER CURRENT PROGNOSIS IS VERY POSITIVE.

Mallory: IT IS A REALLY GOOD FEELING TO BE ALMOST BACK TO NORMAL AGAIN.

I CONSIDER MYSELF TO BE REALLY LUCKY.

IT'S A REALLY GOOD FEELING TO BE ABLE TO

ACTUALLY GO OUTSIDE AND BE ABLE TO DO STUFF AGAIN

AND NOT TO HAVE TO SIT INSIDE IN PAIN.

Narrator: AROUND 25 MILLION PEOPLE WEAR CONTACT LENSES IN THE U.S.,

BUT VERY FEW ACTUALLY CONTRACT THIS PARASITE,

AND FEWER STILL LOSE THEIR SIGHT AS A RESULT.

PEOPLE WHO DON'T WEAR CONTACT LENSES CAN ALSO GET INFECTED,

ESPECIALLY IF THE CORNEA IS SCRATCHED.

TO MINIMIZE THE RISK OF CATCHING THE ACANTHAMOEBA,

KEEP CONTACT LENSES AND LENS CASES CLEAN

AND ALWAYS VISIT AN EYE DOCTOR

IF THERE'S A SUDDEN ONSET OF PAIN.

Mallory: I REALLY HOPE THAT NO ONE ELSE GETS THIS,

'CAUSE IT IS REALLY A HORRIBLE EXPERIENCE TO GO THROUGH.

THE ACANTHAMOEBA'S ABILITY TO CHANGE ITS IDENTITY,

TO GO INTO THIS CYST FORM AND HIDE,

IS ONE OF THE REASONS THAT IT'S SO SUCCESSFUL

AND SO DIFFICULT TO TREAT.

BUT ACANTHAMOEBA ISN'T THE ONLY PARASITE

THAT KNOWS HOW TO CONCEAL ITSELF INSIDE THE HUMAN BODY.

OFTENTIMES, A PARASITE CAN BE THERE

FOR LONG PERIODS OF TIME TOTALLY UNDETECTED.

AND BY THE TIME WE FIGURE OUT WE HAVE A PARASITE,

IT'S ALMOST TOO LATE.

Narrator: WHEN IT COMES TO THESE MASTERS OF DISGUISE,

WHAT YOU SEE ISN'T ALWAYS WHAT YOU'VE GOT.

OCTOBER 2007.

37-YEAR-OLD YASMIN MEAH

IS A PHYSICIAN AT MOUNT SINAI HOSPITAL.

THE PATIENT SHE'S MOST WORRIED ABOUT

IS HER FATHER, DR. MOHAMMED MEAH.

MOHAMMED HAS BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH COLITIS,

OR INFLAMMATION OF THE LARGE INTESTINE.

Yasmin: MY DAD SUFFERED FROM THIS FOR YEARS,

AND, REALLY, OVER IN THE PAST THREE OR FOUR YEARS,

IT REALLY BECAME MUCH MORE PRONOUNCED.

IT WAS APPROXIMATELY SEVERAL WEEKS OF ABDOMINAL PAIN,

CRAMPING, AND PROFUSE DIARRHEA

THAT BROUGHT HIM TO THE ATTENTION

OF A GASTROENTEROLOGIST, WHO TOOK OVER HIS CARE.

Narrator: THE GASTROENTEROLOGIST TREATS MOHAMMED WITH STEROIDS.

STEROIDS WORK BY SUPPRESSING THE BODY'S IMMUNE RESPONSE

AND THEREBY REDUCING THE INFLAMMATION.

BUT THREE MONTHS LATER,

HER FATHER, MOHAMMED, IS SICKER THAN EVER.

Yasmin: MY MOM CALLED ME ON THE PHONE, FEELING VERY DESPERATE,

TELLING ME THAT HE HAD NOT GOTTEN OUT OF BED IN THREE DAYS

AND HAD NOT EATEN ANYTHING.

AT THAT POINT, I KNEW THAT THERE WAS SOMETHING

VERY, VERY SIGNIFICANT GOING ON

THAT WAS NOT FULLY EXPLAINED BY HIS COLITIS.

AND AT THAT POINT,

I URGED MY MOM TO BRING HIM TO THE HOSPITAL.

Narrator: AT THE HOSPITAL, MOHAMMED IS PUT UNDER THE CARE

OF DR. ERIC ROSENDORF.

Dr. Rosendorf: HE, OVER ABOUT 10 DAYS,

DEVELOPED A WORSENED CONDITION OF HIS BREATHING,

MORE SHORTNESS OF BREATH.

HE ALSO DEVELOPED ABDOMINAL DISCOMFORT,

WHERE THE ABDOMEN WAS ENLARGING.

FROM THAT POINT, HE BECAME CRITICALLY ILL.

HE LOOKED AWFUL.

HE LOOKED LIKE HE WAS ON DEATH'S DOOR.

Narrator: ONE OF THE MAIN CAUSES OF ACANTHAMOEBA KERATITIS

IS DIRTY CONTACT LENSES.

MOHAMMED MEAH IS SUFFERING FROM AN INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASE.

BUT INSTEAD OF RESPONDING TO TREATMENT,

HIS CONDITION HAS RAPIDLY WORSENED.

HE IS CRITICALLY ILL,

AND HIS DOCTORS ARE DESPERATE TO FIND OUT WHY.

DR. ROSENDORF BELIEVES

THE PROBLEM GOES FURTHER THAN MOHAMMED'S LARGE INTESTINE.

THE ONLY WAY FOR THE DOCTORS TO GET A LOOK

AT MOHAMMED'S INTESTINE IS TO OPEN HIM UP.

[ MONITOR BEEPS ]

AT THAT POINT, HE BASICALLY DID WHAT'S CALLED A PEEK-AND-SHRIEK.

Narrator: WHEN THEY PERFORM THE SURGERY,

THE DOCTORS MAKE A SHOCKING DISCOVERY.

THERE WAS A CLEAR ABNORMALITY.

Narrator: MOHAMMED'S SMALL BOWEL

IS SWOLLEN TO TWICE ITS NORMAL SIZE.

Yasmin: IT WAS SO SWOLLEN.

HE SAID IT DIDN'T LOOK LIKE ANYTHING TYPICAL

OF WHAT HE'S SEEN BEFORE.

SO, HE LOOKED AT IT, TOOK A FEW PHOTOS,

AND TUCKED IT RIGHT BACK IN.

Dr. Rosendorf: WE HAD TO DECIDE TO TRY TO FIGURE OUT

WHY COULD HE HAVE THIS SWELLING OF HIS SMALL INTESTINE.

Yasmin: MY DAD WAS NOW ON A VENTILATOR,

BUT WE WERE NO CLOSER TO AN ANSWER THAN WE WERE BEFORE.

Narrator: MOHAMMED IS TAKEN TO THE INTENSIVE CARE UNIT.

HIS BLOOD PRESSURE IS DANGEROUSLY LOW,

AND HE NEEDS MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF OXYGEN TO STAY ALIVE.

YASMIN PERSUADES DR. ROSENDORF

TO PERFORM A BIOPSY ON HER FATHER'S BOWEL.

WHEN THE RESULTS COME BACK, THE DOCTORS ARE STUNNED.

Yasmin: AND I GOT A CALL FROM ERIC ROSENDORF,

AND HE SAID, "YOU WON'T BELIEVE IT,

BUT THEY FOUND A WORM."

Dr. Rosendorf: I WAS COMPLETELY SURPRISED.

WE COULD SEE LARVAE IN THE BIOPSIES.

Narrator: THE BIOPSY REVEALS

THAT MOHAMMED MEAH'S BOWELS HAVE BECOME HOME

TO A PARASITIC WORM CALLED STRONGYLOIDES.

Dr. Rosendorf: I'VE NEVER SEEN A CASE OF STRONGYLOIDES PRIOR TO THIS.

I THINK IT'S A ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME DIAGNOSIS.

Narrator: DR. ROSENDORF CONSULTS MOHAMMED'S DAUGHTER,

WHO IS SHOCKED BUT NOT SURPRISED.

IT WAS AS IF A LIGHT BULB WENT OFF.

AND I THOUGHT, "OH, MY GOSH. OF COURSE IT IS.

"THIS COMPLETELY MAKES SENSE.

OF COURSE THIS IS STRONGYLOIDES."

Narrator: STRONGYLOIDES, ALSO KNOWN AS THREADWORM,

IS A PARASITIC WORM THAT LIVES AND HIDES IN THE SMALL BOWEL.

Yasmin: THIS IS ONE OF THOSE PARASITES

THAT YOU LEARN IN MEDICAL SCHOOL,

AND YOU LEARN ABOUT ITS ELUSIVE PROPERTIES.

Riskin: STRONGYLOIDES IS A PERFECT EXAMPLE OF A PARASITE

THAT IS A MASTER OF DISGUISE.

IF IT GETS INTO A HOST WITH A HEALTHY IMMUNE SYSTEM,

IT CAN BE TOTALLY UNDETECTED FOR YEARS.

Narrator: THIS PARASITE CAN HIDE WITHIN THE HUMAN HOST FOR YEARS

PRIOR TO DISCOVERY,

BUT IT ALSO USES DECEPTION TO GET INTO THE BODY.

IT HAS THE ABILITY TO BE FREE-LIVING IN THE SOIL,

USUALLY FROM A FECAL-CONTAMINATED SOIL.

Narrator: STRONGYLOIDES LARVAE LIVE AND HIDE IN SOIL

THAT'S BEEN CONTAMINATED BY INFECTED FECES.

Riskin: THE LARVAE HAVE A GREAT TRICK FOR FINDING A HUMAN HOST.

THE LARVAE ARE ATTRACTED TO A CHEMICAL CALLED UROCANIC ACID,

AND UROCANIC ACID IS FOUND ON HUMAN SKIN,

AND ITS HIGHEST CONCENTRATIONS ARE ON THE SOLES OF THE FEET.

SO IF A HUMAN'S WALKING AROUND IN BARE FEET ON THE SOIL,

THAT'S HOW THE PARASITE CAN FIND A HUMAN AND GET IN.

Narrator: ONCE THE PARASITE FINDS ITS WAY INTO A HUMAN HOST,

IT CAN SPREAD THROUGHOUT THE BODY.

Dr. Rosendorf: AND IT BURROWS ITS WAY THROUGH THE SKIN,

MAKING ITS WAY INTO THE SMALL BLOOD VESSELS,

AND EVENTUALLY CAN ENTER INTO THE LUNGS.

Narrator: FROM THERE, THEY CLIMB UP THE BRONCHIAL TUBE

AND ARE SWALLOWED BACK DOWN INTO THE GUT.

IN THE SMALL BOWEL,

THEY MOLT TWICE AND BECOME ADULT FEMALE WORMS.

THE FEMALES THREAD THEMSELVES IN AND OUT OF THE LINING

OF THE SMALL BOWEL, CAUSING INFLAMMATION.

STRONGYLOIDES IS NOT NATIVE TO AMERICA.

WHERE MOHAMMED CONTRACTED THE PARASITE IS A MYSTERY.

Dr. Rosendorf: IT'S A UNIQUE WORM.

IT'S FOUND ENDEMICALLY IN TROPICAL AREAS

AND SUBTROPICAL AREAS OF THE WORLD.

Narrator: MOHAMMED'S DAUGHTER HAS THE ANSWER.

Mallory: MY DAD GREW UP IN A VILLAGE IN CHITTAGONG,

WHICH IS IN BANGLADESH, AND HE WAS A FARM BOY --

GREW UP ON A FARM.

HE, LIKE MANY OTHER MEMBERS OF HIS FAMILY,

WALKED AROUND BAREFOOT MOST OF HIS EARLY LIFE.

Narrator: MOHAMMED PROBABLY PICKED UP THIS PARASITE

WHEN HE WAS A CHILD LIVING IN BANGLADESH.

BUT WHY DID THIS PARASITE ONLY BECOME A PROBLEM 60 YEARS LATER?

THE ANSWER LIES IN THE STEROIDS MOHAMMED WAS GIVEN

TO TREAT HIS COLITIS.

STEROIDS REDUCE INFLAMMATION

BY SUPPRESSING THE BODY'S OWN IMMUNE RESPONSE.

BUT INSTEAD OF REDUCING THE SYMPTOMS OF THE COLITIS,

THE STEROIDS SUPPRESSED HIS IMMUNE SYSTEM

AND ALLOWED THE PARASITIC WORMS TO GO ON THE RAMPAGE.

DR. MEAH PROBABLY HAD THE PARASITE

AT LOW LEVELS IN HIS SYSTEM SINCE HIS YOUTH IN BANGLADESH,

AND IT WASN'T UNTIL HE WAS ON STEROIDS

THAT DEPRESSED, OR SUPPRESSED, HIS IMMUNE SYSTEM

WHERE THE PARASITE WAS ABLE TO RUN RAMPANT.

Narrator: THE TREATMENT FOR MOHAMMED'S COLITIS

ACTUALLY BENEFITED THE PARASITE.

Dr. Rosendorf: WE WERE TRYING TO TREAT HIS COLITIS.

AND, IN FACT, THE STEROID AND THE ANTI-INFLAMMATORY

AND IMMUNOSUPPRESSIVE AGENTS

THAT WERE USED TO TREAT HIS COLITIS,

WHICH ALLOWED THE PARASITE TO BECOME SUCH A BURDEN

AND DISSEMINATE THROUGH HIS SYSTEM.

Narrator: BUT THE RELIEF AT ARRIVING AT A DIAGNOSIS IS SHORT-LIVED.

IT SOON BECOMES CLEAR

THE WORMS HAVE WREAKED HAVOC THROUGHOUT MOHAMMED'S BODY.

STRONGYLOIDES IS A KILLER.

IT CAN CAUSE MAJOR TISSUE DAMAGE,

ACUTE RESPIRATORY FAILURE, AND EVENTUALLY DEATH.

ONLY 10% OF PEOPLE WITH THE INFECTION WILL ACTUALLY SURVIVE.

I REALIZED AT THAT POINT THAT DESPITE ALL MY RELIEF

AT FINDING OUT A DIAGNOSIS

THAT HIS PROGNOSIS WAS ACTUALLY PRETTY DISMAL.

Dr. Rosendorf: BY BURROWING ITS WAY THROUGH THE INTESTINES

AND CAUSING INFLAMMATION OF THE LUNGS,

HE WAS REALLY GOING THROUGH

WHAT I WOULD CONSIDER MULTIORGAN SYSTEM FAILURE.

HE WAS SICK TO THE POINT WHERE I THOUGHT HE WAS GONNA DIE.

Narrator: MOHAMMED MEAH IS IN CRITICAL CONDITION.

A DEADLY PARASITE CALLED STRONGYLOIDES

IS SPREADING THROUGH HIS BODY.

DR. ROSENDORF AND HIS TEAM MUST BEGIN TREATMENT RIGHT AWAY

TO KILL THE PARASITE BEFORE IT KILLS MOHAMMED.

Dr. Rosendorf: HE WAS TREATED WITH,

AT THAT POINT, TWO ANTIPARASITIC AGENTS.

ONE WAS IVERMECTIN. THE OTHER WAS ALBENDAZOLE.

Narrator: IVERMECTIN KILLS ADULT STRONGYLOIDES WORMS,

BUT IT DOESN'T KILL THE LARVAE.

SO, EVEN IF HE SURVIVES THIS CRISIS,

HE'LL HAVE TO TAKE THE MEDICINE FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE.

MOHAMMED TAKES THE IVERMECTIN FOR 14 DAYS,

BUT THE MEDICATION MAY NOT BE ENOUGH.

Yasmin: THINGS WERE GETTING WORSE,

AND IT WAS FAIRLY CLEAR THAT THE WORM WAS CAUSING

MORE DEVASTATING EFFECTS THAN WE COULD CONTAIN.

Narrator: HIS DIGESTIVE SYSTEM IS SO BADLY DAMAGED

THAT THEY DECIDE TO OPERATE.

AT THIS POINT, IT WAS PRETTY CONCLUSIVE

THAT HE SHOULD PROBABLY GET HIS COLON REMOVED.

[ MONITOR BEEPS ]

Narrator: THE OPERATION IS COMPLICATED,

AS THE STEROIDS MOHAMMED WAS GIVEN IN THE PAST

MAKE IT HARDER FOR HIS BODY TO HEAL.

BUT TO THE RELIEF OF HIS FAMILY, THE SURGERY IS SUCCESSFUL.

Yasmin: HE CAME HOME, AND SEVERAL MONTHS LATER,

HE'S DOING INCREDIBLY WELL.

Narrator: AGAINST THE ODDS, MOHAMMED SURVIVES THE DEADLY INFECTION.

I FEEL BETTER NOW. I FEEL MUCH STRONGER.

Yasmin: HE REMAINS ON THE IVERMECTIN ON A MONTHLY BASIS

AND WILL CONTINUE TO DO SO FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE.

Narrator: MOHAMMED KNOWS THAT HE SURVIVED

THANKS TO HIS DAUGHTER AND HIS DOCTORS.

I AM GRATEFUL TO ALL OF THEM.

I THINK IT'S A MIRACULOUS STORY AND A MIRACULOUS RECOVERY.

I THINK HE BEAT THE ODDS.

SO, THE FACT THAT STRONGYLOIDES CAN LIVE

FOR SUCH A LONG PERIOD OF TIME INSIDE THE HUMAN BODY

WITHOUT THE HUMAN EVER KNOWING THAT IT'S THERE

IS ONE OF THE THINGS THAT MAKES IT SUCH A SUCCESSFUL PARASITE.

WHEN THE IMMUNE SYSTEM IS DOWN,

THAT'S WHEN THE PARASITE CAN STRIKE,

AND THAT'S WHEN IT CAN BE DEADLY.

Narrator: THE BEST WAY TO COMBAT THIS PARASITE IS PREVENTION.

WHEN VISITING COUNTRIES WHERE THE PARASITE IS PRESENT,

TRAVELERS SHOULD WEAR SHOES AT ALL TIMES.

Riskin: IF YOU'RE A PARASITE,

ONE OF THE BIG CHALLENGES YOU FACE IS HOW TO GET TO YOUR HOST.

NOW, STRONGYLOIDES HAS A GREAT STRATEGY,

WHERE THEY SIT AND WAIT FOR SOMEONE TO WALK BY

AND THEN BURROW INTO THE FOOT.

OTHER PARASITES HAVE A DIFFERENT STRATEGY.

THEY CONCEAL THEMSELVES INSIDE THE FOOD

THAT A HOST IS GONNA EAT AND WAIT TO BE EATEN.

CONCEALING YOURSELF INSIDE THE FOOD

THAT YOUR HOST IS GOING TO EAT

IS A FANTASTIC WAY TO GET INSIDE YOUR HOST,

AND THAT STRATEGY IS USED BY COUNTLESS PARASITES.

RACCOON ROUNDWORM GETS INTO RACCOONS

WHEN RACCOONS EAT INFECTED RODENTS.

THE RAT LUNGWORM GETS INTO A RAT

WHEN THE RAT EATS AN INFECTED SNAIL.

AND ONE OF THE WAYS THAT HUMANS GET INFECTED WITH PARASITES

IS WHEN THEY EAT INFECTED FISH.

Narrator: AT A RESEARCH LAB IN FLORIDA,

DR. ROB OVERSTREET WANTS TO FIND OUT THE EXTENT

OF PARASITIC INFECTIONS IN FISH ON THE GULF COAST.

Dr. Overstreet: THERE'S BEEN A BIG CHANGE IN DIET.

PEOPLE NOW EAT A LOT MORE FISH.

WITH SOME OF THE NEW CUISINES, THEY EAT A LOT OF THE FISH RAW.

WELL, WE'RE GOING OUT AND GETTING SOME OF THE FISH

THAT WE SEE LOCALLY HERE,

BOTH INSHORE AND WELL OFF THE ISLANDS

TO SEE WHICH PARASITES ARE IN WHICH FISH

AND HOW COMMON THEY ARE.

IT'S IMPORTANT TO COLLECT OUR OWN SAMPLES,

BECAUSE WE NEED TO HAVE LIVING MATERIAL TO SEE WHETHER

THEY COULD POSSIBLY CAUSE AN INFECTION IN MAN.

Narrator: FISH COMMON TO THE GULF COAST

INCLUDE CATFISH, WAHOO, AND BASS,

AND IT'S NOT LONG BEFORE THEY CATCH SOMETHING.

THE TEAM TAKE THE LIVE SPECIMENS BACK TO THE LAB

TO SEE WHAT PARASITES THEY MIGHT BE HARBORING.

INSIDE THE GUTS OF ONE OF THE FISH,

ROB FINDS WHAT HE'S LOOKING FOR...

A 4-INCH PARASITIC WORM CALLED EUSTRONGYLIDES IGNOTUS.

IT'S A PARASITE THAT CAN HAVE MANY INTERMEDIATE HOSTS.

IT STARTS AS AN AQUATIC WORM.

THE WORM IS EATEN BY SMALL FISH,

WHICH, IN TURN, ARE EATEN BY A SUCCESSION OF LARGER FISH.

WHEN THE INFECTED FISH ARE EATEN BY BIRDS,

THE WORMS MATURE TO EGG-LAYING ADULTS.

IF A HUMAN EATS THE FISH RAW, THE CONSEQUENCES CAN BE SERIOUS.

THE WORM CAN PENETRATE THE ABDOMINAL CAVITY,

CAUSING A LIFE-THREATENING CONDITION CALLED PERITONITIS.

DR. OVERSTREET'S RESEARCH

REVEALS THAT IN SOME POPULATIONS,

UP TO 15% OF THE FISH ARE INFECTED WITH EUSTRONGYLIDES.

Riskin: EUSTRONGYLIDES IS A PARASITE

THAT LITERALLY USES ITS INTERMEDIATE HOST AS BAIT

IN ORDER TO GET INTO ITS NEXT HOST.

YOU MIGHT THINK THAT YOU'RE ONLY EATING SUSHI,

BUT YOU MIGHT ACTUALLY BE EATING SUSHI PLUS PARASITES.

Overstreet: THE PRIMARY THING THAT WE SHOULD REMEMBER

IS THAT IF YOU COOK YOUR FISH,

SHELLFISH OR FINFISH, YOU'RE NOT GONNA GET AN INFECTION.

ON THE OTHER HAND, I THINK MOST PEOPLE LIKE SUSHI OR SASHIMI.

IF YOU MAKE YOUR OWN, YOU SHOULD BE CAREFUL.

YOU SHOULD KNOW WHICH SPECIES OF FISH

YOU'RE MORE LIKELY TO GET AN INFECTION FROM,

AND THAT'S ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WE'RE TRYING TO DETERMINE.

Riskin: THESE PARASITES DISGUISE THEMSELVES

INSIDE THE BODY OF AN INTERMEDIATE HOST

IN ORDER TO SNEAK THEIR WAY INTO THE NEXT HOST.

BUT SOME PARASITES USE DISGUISE IN A TOTALLY DIFFERENT WAY --

THEY ACTUALLY CONCEAL THEMSELVES

INSIDE THE CELLS OF THEIR HOST'S BODY.

Narrator: SUMMER 2007.

RICK DiMICHELE IS A 55-YEAR-OLD FITNESS FREAK

LIVING IN RURAL MASSACHUSETTS WITH HIS WIFE, JOAN.

I WOULD CALL MYSELF SOMEWHAT OF A COMPULSIVE EXERCISER.

I WORK OUT PRETTY MUCH EVERY DAY.

Joan: HE'S ALWAYS EXERCISED.

HE'S 160 POUNDS, AND HE IS ALL MUSCLE.

Narrator: ONE EVENING IN JULY, RICK NOTICES SOMETHING UNUSUAL.

IT'S FRIDAY NIGHT, AND I JUMP ON MY EXERCISE BIKE

AND SPEND ABOUT 45 MINUTES TO AN HOUR ON THE BIKE.

WHEN I JUMP OFF, I'M NOT FEELING QUITE RIGHT.

I'M MORE FATIGUED THAN USUAL. I FEEL LIKE I HAVE A FEVER.

NOTHING SERIOUS, BUT I FEEL LIKE I HAVE A LOW-GRADE FEVER,

AND I'M THINKING THAT THIS IS SOMETHING

THAT'S GONNA GO AWAY ON ITS OWN.

Narrator: BUT THE FEVER DOESN'T GO AWAY.

Rick: EXACTLY ONE WEEK LATER, I'M AT WORK. IT'S A FRIDAY.

ALL OF A SUDDEN,

WHAT HAD BEEN A LOW-GRADE FEVER GETS MUCH WORSE.

I START FEELING WEAK AND TIRED. I'M SWEATING.

THE FEVER IS INCREASING IN INTENSITY.

I LEAVE WORK EARLY AND GO HOME.

JOAN, MY WIFE, TAKES MY TEMPERATURE.

Joan: AN ADULT WITH A 103 TEMPERATURE IS NOT GOOD.

HE OBVIOUSLY IS VERY SICK.

Rick: GOING TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM

IS SOMETHING I WON'T DO UNLESS IT'S SERIOUS.

BUT WITH A 103-DEGREE TEMPERATURE,

I KNOW SOMETHING IS REALLY WRONG.

Narrator: BUT THEY HAVE NO IDEA

JUST HOW MONSTROUS RICK'S SITUATION WILL BECOME.

THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING.

Narrator: FITNESS FANATIC RICK DiMICHELE

IS SUFFERING FROM A MYSTERIOUS FEVER.

SO, AT THE E.R., THE DOCTOR GIVES ME A PHYSICAL EXAMINATION,

TAKES MY TEMPERATURE, ASKS ME SOME QUESTIONS.

Narrator: AND WHILE HE'S IN THE E.R., RICK NOTICES ANOTHER SYMPTOM.

Rick: I'M ALSO FEELING A SLIGHT PAIN IN MY SIDE, VERY SLIGHT.

WHEN I TAKE A DEEP BREATH, IT GETS A LITTLE BIT WORSE.

I'M FEARFUL IT COULD BE SOME KIND OF HEART CONDITION.

Rick: THE DOCTOR GIVES ME AN EKG

JUST TO MAKE SURE IT ISN'T MY HEART.

ONCE THAT'S RULED OUT, WE'RE NOT REALLY SURE WHAT THIS IS.

Narrator: THE DOCTORS PRESCRIBE ANTIBIOTICS AND SEND RICK HOME.

Rick: AFTER RETURNING FROM THE E.R.,

FOR THAT WEEKEND, THE SYMPTOMS BASICALLY INTENSIFIED.

I'M HAVING PRETTY SEVERE CHILLS.

I'M SHAKING, AT TIMES, UNCONTROLLABLY.

HE'S MISERABLE. HE'S ABSOLUTELY MISERABLE.

Rick: I'M TAKING ANTIBIOTIC,

AND THINGS ARE NOT GETTING ANY BETTER.

Narrator: THE FOLLOWING DAY,

RICK MAKES AN APPOINTMENT WITH HIS PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN,

WHERE HE'S GIVEN A BASIC EXAMINATION.

Rick: WE START ASKING THE DOCTOR QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SYMPTOMS,

AND THE DOCTOR SAYS IT COULD BE LYMPHOMA,

WHICH IS A TYPE OF CANCER.

AND THAT STOPS MY HEART.

Narrator: LYMPHOMA IS A TYPE OF CANCER

THAT AFFECTS THE LYMPHATIC SYSTEM.

5% OF ALL CANCER IN HUMANS IS FROM LYMPHOMA,

AND MOST STRAINS ARE DEADLY.

IT IS A GRIM MOMENT FOR BOTH OF US.

I'M RESIGNED TO THE FACT THAT I HAVE CANCER.

Narrator: THE DOCTOR TAKES BLOOD TO TEST FOR CANCER.

THE RESULTS WILL BE IN AT 4:00 P.M. THE NEXT DAY.

Rick: SO, 4:00 ROLLS AROUND.

I PICK UP THE PHONE AND CALL THE DOCTOR.

HE INFORMS ME THAT THE CANCER MARKERS CAME BACK NEGATIVE,

WHICH IS OBVIOUSLY GOOD NEWS.

Narrator: BUT THE BAD NEWS

IS THAT HIS SPLEEN IS DANGEROUSLY SWOLLEN,

AND THE DOCTOR HAS NO IDEA WHY.

Rick: HE TELLS ME MY SPLEEN IS SO LARGE

BECAUSE SOMETHING IS HAPPENING WITH MY RED BLOOD CELLS.

MY PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN

RECOMMENDS THAT I SEE A BLOOD SPECIALIST.

IT REALLY IS A COMPLETE MYSTERY.

I JUST CAN'T IMAGINE WHAT I MIGHT HAVE.

Narrator: TWO DAYS LATER, RICK SEES THE HEMATOLOGIST.

Rick: MY WIFE AND I WALK INTO HIS OFFICE AND SIT DOWN,

AND HE ASKS ME SOME QUESTIONS.

Joan: HE TAKES MULTIPLE BLOOD SAMPLES.

HE DOES A LOT OF HIS OWN BLOOD WORK IN THE OFFICE.

THE DOCTOR IS VERY CONCERNED ABOUT HIS BLOOD COUNT,

WHICH NORMALLY SHOULD BE IN THE 40s,

IS NOW DOWN TO 29,

AND STATES THAT HE MIGHT CONSIDER TRANSFUSING HIM

IF IT GOES ANY LOWER.

Narrator: 24 HOURS LATER, THEY GET THE RESULTS.

Rick: THE DOCTOR CALLS MY WIFE AND I IN.

WE SIT DOWN IN FRONT OF HIM, AND HE LOOKS AT ME, AND HE SAYS,

"BASED ON THE BLOOD ANALYSIS, YOU'VE GOT BABESIOSIS."

Joan: THE DOCTOR TELLS US IT'S BABESIOSIS,

AND I HAD NO IDEA WHAT THIS IS.

I HAD NEVER HEARD OF IT BEFORE,

NEVER HEARD OF BABESIOSIS BEFORE.

Narrator: DR. TIM LEPORE SPECIALIZES IN INFECTIOUS DISEASES

AT THE NANTUCKET COTTAGE HOSPITAL IN MASSACHUSETTS.

Dr. Lepore: BABESIOSIS HAS THE POTENTIAL TO BE FATAL.

THE BABESIA INFECTS HUMAN RED BLOOD CELLS,

CAUSES THEM TO BREAK DOWN.

IN THAT PROCESS,

THE PATIENT TYPICALLY GOES THROUGH HIGH FEVERS AND CHILLS.

THEY MAY HAVE AN ENLARGED SPLEEN.

THEY MAY BECOME VERY ACUTELY ILL AND DANGEROUSLY ILL WITH IT.

BABESIA PARASITES ENTER THE BLOODSTREAM,

AND THEN THEY HIDE IN THE RED BLOOD CELLS,

DEVOURING THEM FROM THE INSIDE.

THE PARASITE FEEDS INSIDE THE RED BLOOD CELL,

REPRODUCES, AND THEN BURSTS OUT INTO THE BLOODSTREAM.

THE PAIN IN MY SIDE IS GETTING WORSE.

Joan: HAVING A TEMP OF 103 AROUND THE CLOCK

FOR A WEEK AND A HALF, HE'S FEELING LIKE CRAP.

Narrator: BUT HOW DID THIS PARASITE GET INTO RICK'S BLOODSTREAM?

THE BABESIA ORGANISM IS TRANSMITTED BY A TICK BITE.

Narrator: THE TICK IS A TINY ARACHNID THAT LIVES IN WOODED AREAS.

IT SURVIVES BY SUCKING THE BLOOD OF MAMMALS.

IRONICALLY, IT'S RICK'S HEALTHY LIFESTYLE

THAT INDIRECTLY CAUSES HIS ILLNESS.

I'M NOT SURE WHERE OR HOW I GOT BITTEN BY A TICK.

BUT MOST LIKELY, I GOT IT IN THE WOODS.

I RUN SEVERAL TIMES A WEEK IN THE WOODS,

AND I PROBABLY BRUSHED UP AGAINST SOME GRASS

AND PICKED UP A TICK THAT WAY.

Narrator: BUT RICK ISN'T THE ONLY PERSON TO HAVE BABESIOSIS

IN THIS PART OF MASSACHUSETTS.

THIS DEADLY PARASITE IS ON THE MOVE,

AND IT'S INFECTING MORE AND MORE PEOPLE.

BUT HOW AND WHY IT'S SPREADING ACROSS THE COUNTRY IS A MYSTERY.

Narrator: INSIDE 55-YEAR-OLD RICK DiMICHELE

IS A PARASITE THAT'S DESTROYING HIS BLOOD CELLS.

BUT RICK ISN'T THE ONLY ONE AFFECTED.

THIS PARASITE IS ON THE MOVE.

DR. THOMAS MATHER IS A PARASITOLOGIST

AT THE UNIVERSITY OF RHODE ISLAND.

HE'S TRYING TO UNDERSTAND HOW BABESIOSIS IS SPREADING.

Dr. Mather: 35 YEARS AGO, BABESIA WAS KNOWN FROM NANTUCKET ISLAND.

SINCE THEN, WE'VE FOUND IT THROUGHOUT THE CAPE,

DOWN ALONG THE SOUTHERN COAST OF NEW ENGLAND.

TO SEE THE TRUE SPREAD, I THINK IT REQUIRES DOING FIELDWORK.

Narrator: FIRST, HE HEADS TO AN AREA OF NEW ENGLAND

THAT 30 YEARS AGO WAS FREE OF THE BABESIA PARASITE.

THERE, HE BEGINS COLLECTING TICKS.

Dr. Mather: THEY'RE REALLY WELL ADAPTED FOR LATCHING ONTO HOSTS,

SO AS WE DRAG THE CLOTH ALONG THE GROUND,

THE TICKS HIDDEN IN THE LEAF LITTER

WILL JUST LATCH ONTO THE CLOTH.

Narrator: DR. MATHER AND HIS TEAM RETURN TO THE UNIVERSITY LAB

TO TEST THE TICKS FOR THE BABESIA PARASITE.

TO FIND THE PARASITE, THEY MUST PERFORM A GENETIC ANALYSIS.

Dr. Mather: AND WE'RE LOOKING, SPECIFICALLY, NOT FOR TICK DNA,

BUT FOR BABESIA DNA.

Narrator: THEY STAIN THE TICK SPECIMENS

AND EXPOSE THEM TO A SPECIAL U.V. LIGHT

WHICH WILL IDENTIFY THE ELUSIVE BABESIA PARASITE

AND THE RATE OF INFECTION.

EACH OF THESE BRIGHT BANDS

REPRESENTS ONE POSITIVE TICK FOR BABESIA.

WE WOULD EXPECT TO SEE ABOUT A 10% INFECTION RATE IN TICKS.

Narrator: BUT IN THIS AREA, THE RESULTS ARE VERY DIFFERENT.

LOOKS LIKE WE HAVE 7 POSITIVES OUT OF 34, WHICH IS ABOUT 20%.

IT'S HIGHER THAN WE WOULD HAVE EXPECTED BY 8% TO 10%.

Narrator: DR. MATHER'S EXPERIMENT

ILLUSTRATES THAT THE BABESIA PARASITE IS ON THE RISE

IN NEW ENGLAND, BUT HOW DID IT GET THERE?

TICKS THEMSELVES CAN'T MOVE VERY FAR,

BUT THEY CAN HITCH A RIDE ON OTHER ANIMALS

WHICH ARE MUCH MORE MOBILE.

THESE PARASITES MOVE INTO NEW REGIONS BY INFECTING MICE.

WHEN THE MICE MIGRATE, THEY TAKE THE BABESIA PARASITE WITH THEM.

Dr. Mather: IT CAN CONTINUE ITS MOVE AT A WESTWARD AND A NORTHWARD

AND A SOUTHERN CLIP OF ABOUT 5 OR 15 MILES EVERY YEAR.

I'M CONFIDENT THAT OVER TIME -- 20 YEARS, 30 YEARS --

THAT BABESIA PARASITES WILL BE FAR MORE COMMON

WHEREVER BLACK-LEGGED TICKS ARE FOUND,

AND THAT'S GONNA PRESENT A MUCH GREATER LEVEL OF RISK.

Narrator: IN RURAL MASSACHUSETTS,

RICK'S ENCOUNTER WITH THE BABESIA PARASITE

HAS THROWN HIM INTO A LIFE-OR-DEATH SITUATION.

THE PARASITES ARE LITERALLY

EATING HIS BLOOD CELLS FROM WITHIN.

IN A PATIENT WHO IS DESPERATELY ILL WITH BABESIOSIS,

THERE IS THE POTENTIAL TO DIE.

AND YOU HAVE TO BE AGGRESSIVE

ABOUT GOING AFTER FINDING IT AND TREATING THEM.

Rick: THE DOCTOR PRESCRIBES AN ANTIBIOTIC

AND AN ANTIPARASITIC THAT I'M ON FOR 10 DAYS.

Narrator: RICK TAKES AN ANTIPARASITIC MEDICINE CALLED ATOVAQUONE.

ONCE ABSORBED INTO THE BLOOD,

IT PREVENTS THE PARASITE FROM FEEDING.

UNABLE TO METABOLIZE, THE PARASITE STARVES TO DEATH.

WITH FEWER DAMAGED RED BLOOD CELLS TO FILTER OUT,

RICK'S OVERWORKED SPLEEN GRADUALLY RETURNS TO NORMAL.

Rick: AT THAT POINT, WE'RE BOTH JUST JUBILANT

BECAUSE I'VE GOT A DISEASE THAT'S TREATABLE

AND THAT I'M GONNA RECOVER FROM.

ONCE I START TREATMENT,

THE FEVER GOES AWAY ALMOST IMMEDIATELY.

VERY GRADUALLY, THE OTHER SYMPTOMS START TO DISAPPEAR.

SIX OR SEVEN WEEKS AFTER I START TREATMENT,

I'M FEELING NORMAL.

Narrator: NOW THAT RICK'S MADE A FULL RECOVERY,

HE'S MUCH MORE CAUTIOUS.

Rick: NOW I AM MUCH MORE VIGILANT ABOUT CHECKING FOR TICKS,

ESPECIALLY IF I'VE BEEN IN WOODED AREAS

OR EVEN OUT IN THE YARD.

HAVING THIS HAPPEN TO HIM MAKES US APPRECIATE EVERY DAY.

YOU NEVER KNOW WHETHER THIS IS YOUR LAST DAY.

IT'S GIVEN US AN APPRECIATION FOR OUR LIVES, OUR FAMILY.

THE BABESIA PARASITE IS VERY DIFFICULT TO DETECT,

BECAUSE IN A HUMAN BODY,

ONLY AROUND 1% OF THE RED BLOOD CELLS WILL BE INFECTED.

SO, EVEN WITH A BLOOD SMEAR, YOU MIGHT NOT SPOT IT.

Narrator: PEOPLE INFECTED WITH BABESIOSIS OFTEN SHOW NO SYMPTOMS.

BUT WHEN SYMPTOMS DO OCCUR, THE DISEASE CAN BE FATAL,

ESPECIALLY IN PEOPLE WHO ARE OLDER

OR HAVE WEAKER IMMUNE SYSTEMS.

THE BEST WAY TO PREVENT GETTING BABESIOSIS

IS TO AVOID GETTING BITTEN BY A TICK.

IN TICK-INFESTED AREAS, WEAR PANTS AND LONG SLEEVES,

USE INSECT REPELLENT, AND AVOID TALL GRASS.

IT'S NO ACCIDENT THAT PARASITES ARE SOME OF THE MOST PROLIFIC

AND SUCCESSFUL LIFE-FORMS ON THE PLANET.

Narrator: THEY ARE OPPORTUNISTIC KILLERS

THAT WILL STOP AT NOTHING TO INVADE THEIR NEXT HOST,

PLAYING AN ELABORATE GAME OF HIDE-AND-SEEK

WITH OUR IMMUNE SYSTEMS.

THEY ARE THE UNSEEN, UNRECOGNIZED CONQUERORS

OF THE LIVING WORLD.

Riskin: PARASITES ARE ALL AROUND US, BUT FOR THE MOST PART,

WE HAVE NO IDEA THAT THEY'RE THERE

BECAUSE PARASITES ARE MASTERS OF DISGUISE.

-- Captions by VITAC -- www.vitac.com

CAPTIONS PAID FOR BY DISCOVERY COMMUNICATIONS

The Description of Masters of Disguise