Biological Control of the Human Disease Bilharzia

At first glance it just looked like a fish tank. A graduate student told me these fish were cichlids from Africa and South America. The pale guy at the lower left is a baby. I was in the building to retrieve a piece of lighting gear I left behind in one of the wood chemistry labs but couldn't resist a quick shot of these fish. And a little research when I got back to my office explained how they fit into agricultural research.

The lab belongs to Dr. Jay R. Stauffer, Jr., Distinguished Professor of Ichthyology in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State. He and his research group have studied the effects and influences fish have on ecosystems in the Susquehanna, Potomac, and Allegheny Rivers as well as those in places like Lake Malawi.

That's where the cichlids come in. These fish in the lab tank are for show. The real study takes place in the waters of Lake Malawi. It's complicated but let's just say Stauffer is studying the role cichlids have in the control of Bilharzia, an infectious disease caused by a parasite that gets out of control when the fish population declines. You can read more about it HERE. Bilharzia is a disease that adversely affects some 200 million people in the tropical regions of the world.

Those fish look a little different to me now.


Sekhar said…
Thanks Steve for teaching me about Bilharzia :)
Ronman said…
It is amazing how the smallest of things can make such huge impacts on mankind.


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