Barack Obama namesake: A parasite called Paragordius obamai
Sexual reproduction can be a difficult task for some species of parasites particularly when the life cycle requires multiple hosts or when the parasite is in the environment with no suitable mate to be found.
In an interesting study published in PLoS ONE from 2012, researchers from the US and Germany discovered the first hairworm which able to reproduce without a mate.
The new organism, Paragordius obamai, named after the 44th President of the US, whose father was raised in Kenya where the parasite is found, is a new species from the phylum Nematomorpha (a sister phylum to Nematoda, where we find organisms like Ascaris and hookworms).
Researchers discovered that P. obamai, thanks to parthenogenesis (developing an egg without fertilization), was able to reproduce asexually. This is the first species in the phylum to reproduce in such a fashion.
Many parasites are able to reproduce without a mate, either by parthenogenesis or as in the case tapeworms, hermaphroditism.
According to the study, parasites in the Nematomorpa phylum are parasites to arthropods where they exist in the larval form in their hosts. There they make their insect hosts jump in water, where the free living adults seek out mates for reproduction.
However, with P. obamai, is found in large, fast-moving waters which can make finding a mate more of a challenge.
In the lab researchers revealed found that the adults only released females lacking in male sex organs. In addition, there was a lack of sperm in the females.
This is the first case of parthenogenesis in the phylum Nematomorpha. For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page