Taxonomists and scientists alike usually name species of animals and plants after those who discovered them, or after the place where they were discovered. But to name a species of parasite after U.S. President Barack Obama?
For a group of American parasitologists, naming the newest specie of flatworm discovered in honor of the most powerful man in the world is a sensible move. The intestinal parasite infecting Malaysian turtles is so unique, the scientists named it after Obama.
Barack Obama, Parasite
The details of the newly discovered species of parasite—Baracktrema obamai—was recently published in the Journal of Parasitology. According to the study, the flatworm is a distant relative of another parasitic flatworm that causes schistosomiasis, a debilitating disease that kills thousands of people each year globally.
Thomas Platt, a retired parasitologist from St. Mary’s College, said in a statement that it was the first time such study was carried out for the group of parasites. Explaining the reason why he named the parasite after Obama, he said he was inspired by how difficult the obstacles the parasites had to endure to survive the host’s immune system, the Daily Mail reported.
Similar to Obama
“I have named a number of species after people I admire, from my father-in-law, my Ph.D. adviser, and good friends who are academics and/or amateur naturalists. Baracktrema obamai will endure as long as there are systematists studying these remarkable organisms,” Platt said in a statement as reported by the Daily Mail.
Platt hopes that more scientists will study the newly discovered parasites to gain more understanding on other similar parasites that cause debilitating diseases, particularly schistosomiasis.
According to the World Health Association (WHO), schistosomiasis remains a global concern, especially in parts of Africa. WHO data revealed that around 258.9 million people across the world needed preventive chemotherapy for 2014. Around 123.3 million of them were school-age children.