Parasites—and their role in a healthy society—to be explored at Canadian Museum of Nature’s NatureTalks

What first comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘parasite’? Many would agree that images of insects, bacteria and squirmy, unidentifiable objects consume their thoughts.

A parasite is defined as an organism that lives on or in an organism of another species, known as the host, from the body of which it obtains nutrients. Our society tends to be uneducated about the stigma revolving around these organisms, such as worms, bacteria and fungi. They in fact have very positive qualities that are crucial to our lives and the greater ecosystem that we live in.

Scientists in the 1950’s began noticing a relationship between our North American cleanliness-obsessed urban lifestyle and the rise in autoimmune diseases, such as asthma, arthritis, multiple sclerosis and diabetes.

“The parasitic species that we tried so hard to avoid may have been conferring a healthy reward for their room and board,” says Judith Price, parasite expert and assistant curator at the Canadian Museum of Nature’s invertebrates collection. “Lower diversity in any ecology is dangerous and can lead to imbalances, sometimes with both alarming speed and consequences.”

Examples of these types of imbalances are demonstrated through a harsh reality. Price notes that in the United States alone, there are approximately 23,000 deaths per year due to antibiotic resistance. There are many superbugs now resistant to many different types of drugs.

“We’re entering a post-antibiotic era,” Price added.

The Canadian Museum of Nature has the perfect opportunity for you to become an informed citizen. Today, there will be a natureTALKS session Price who will discuss strategies for treating and resisting disease.


The event begins at 7 p.m. and will kick off with a 20-minute formal interview with Price led by the Globe and Mail Science Writer Ivan Semeniuk. Guests will have a chance to participate in discussing the topic directly with Price after the reception.