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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Parasitism, the relationship between two species where one benefits at the expense of the other, sometimes killing the host or causing disease.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the relationship between parasites and hosts, where one species lives on or in another to the benefit of the parasite but at a cost to the host, potentially leading to disease or death of the host. Typical examples are mistletoe and trees, hookworms and vertebrates, cuckoos and other birds. In many cases the parasite species do so well in or on a particular host that they reproduce much faster and can adapt to changes more efficiently, and it is thought that almost half of all animal species have a parasitic stage in their lifetime. What techniques do hosts have to counter the parasites, and what impact do parasites have on the evolution of their hosts?


Steve Jones
Emeritus Professor of Genetics at University College, London

Wendy Gibson
Professor of Protozoology at the University of Bristol


Kayla King
Associate Professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Available now

46 minutes

Last on

Thu 26 Jan 2017 21:30


Wendy Gibson at the University of Bristol

Steve Jones at University College, London

Kayla King at the University of Oxford

Parasitism – Wikipedia

Parasites - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Intestinal parasites of King Richard III – University of Leicester

The text of The Microbe Hunters by Paul de Kruif 

Rats, Lice and History by Hans Zinsser

Guinea worm eradication program - The Carter Center

Neglected tropical diseases - World Health Organisation

Grand challenges research program - Gates Foundation

Roll Back Malaria Partnership

Worm therapy: why parasites may be good for you – BBC Future

Toxoplasmosis – NHS



Robert S. Desowitz, New Guinea Tapeworms and Jewish Grandmothers: Tales of Parasites and People (W. W. Norton & Company, 1987)

Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel: A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years (Vintage, 1998)

Gerald W. Esch, Parasites and Infectious Disease: Discovery by Serendipity and Otherwise (Cambridge University Press, 2007)

Timothy M. Goater, Cameron P. Goater, Gerald W. Esch, Parasitism: The Diversity and Ecology of Animal Parasites (Cambridge University Press, 2013)

Steve Jones, Evolution: A Ladybird Expert Book (Michael Joseph, 2017)

Paul de Kruif, The Microbe Hunters (first published 1926; Houghton Mifflin, 2002)

Matt Ridley, The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature (Penguin, 1994)

Paul Schmid-Hempel, Evolutionary Parasitology: The Integrated Study of Infections, Immunology, Ecology, and Genetics (Oxford University Press, 2008)

Carl Zimmer, Parasite Rex: Inside the Bizarre World of Nature's Most Dangerous Creatures (Simon & Schuster, 2002)

Hans Zinsser, Rats, Lice and History (first published 1935; Transaction Publishers, 2008)


Role Contributor
Presenter Melvyn Bragg
Interviewed Guest Steve Jones
Interviewed Guest Wendy Gibson
Interviewed Guest Kayla King
Producer Simon Tillotson


  • Thu 26 Jan 2017 09:00
  • Thu 26 Jan 2017 21:30

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