Changing Parasites’ Bad Reputation With Monster Girl Art

From ‘Alien’ to ‘The Last of Us,’ parasites have a gruesome reputation. But this parasitologist is using anime-inspired art to change that.

a colored illustration of a monster girl with sucker fingers and leech body, wearing a doctor's lab coat and holding a clipboard
Dr Delilah, Leech Monster Girl Doctor, can see you now. Image by Tommy Leung, used with permission

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In Alien, the titular xenomorph uses the body of a human host to grow and eventually burst out of his chest. In the video game-turned TV series The Last Of Us, a fungi called cordyceps causes a catastrophic global pandemic by infecting humans and forming a parasitic relationship that turns them into flesh-eating zombies.

Are you noticing a pattern here? As far as pop culture is concerned, humans and parasites definitely have beef. 

Dr. Tommy Leung, a lecturer and parasitologist at the University of New England in Armidale, Australia, was dissatisfied with the negative perception surrounding his primary research focus. “The word ‘parasite’ in general vernacular is kind of like an insult, and that’s one reason why people don’t care about them,” he said.

So, to help people understand the fascinating world of parasites, he started Parasite Monmusu, or Parasite Monster Girls, a blog where he shares original vibrant anime art of monster characters inspired by parasite species. Leung hopes that his illustrations and writing will help change negative perceptions of parasites.

Lauren J. Young, associate health editor at Scientific American, profiled Leung in an article she wrote for Science Friday called Why We Should Defend Parasites. Universe of Art host D. Peterschmidt sits down with her to talk about what she learned while writing it, and then reads her article.

Universe of Art is hosted and produced by D. Peterschmidt, who also wrote the music. Charles Bergquist and John Dankosky provided production assistance. Our show art was illustrated by Abelle Hayford. The original article featured in this episode was written by Lauren J. Young. Support for Science Friday’s science and arts coverage comes from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. 

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A transcript for this episode will be available in a few days.

Meet the Writer

About D. Peterschmidt

D. Peterschmidt is a producer, host of the podcast Universe of Art, and composes music for Science Friday’s podcasts. Their D&D character is a clumsy bard named Chip Chap Chopman.

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