Lamar student goes abroad to assist in parasitic worm study

Lamar student goes abroad to assist in parasitic worm study

The morning light guides you to the water, dressed in gloves, a long-sleeved shirt and tall rubber boots. You make this trek with a sieve extended by a long pole in hand as you collect snails, ranging in size from half-an-inch to an inch long, being careful to not expose yourself to parasitic flatworms that infest the waters. This is just another morning of summer vacation for Lamar University junior biology major Emily McCall of Orangfield, who spent two weeks performing field research in Kenya. 

The field research was funded by the Presidential Summer Fellowship, which provided a $10,000 grant to research Schistosoma Mansoni and S. Haematobium, two parasitic worms that are reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to afflict upwards of 200 million people around the world. 

“I am very grateful to Lamar University, the Presidential Summer Fellowship, the Biology Department, and my wonderful project mentor, Dr. H. Randall Yoder, for their help in allowing me the chance to travel and help perform Schistosomiasis research along Lake Victoria’s coast in Kenya,” McCall said.

Parasitolgist and Professor of Biology at the University of New Mexico Eric Loker, as well as the Kenyan Medical Research, led the research team. The team located areas where there were isolated populations of snails to determine the types prevalent near villages where Schistosomiasis infection rates are high. They also collected aquatic snails, which can act as a temporary host for the parasites that can then infect people who come in contact with the water, and prepared the samples to be brought back to New Mexico where they would be analyzed for a long-term study that Loker began in 1986.

“We would isolate the parasites, identify the species, note the date and the snail they came from,” she said. “Then we would package them to be sent back to the states as well. We preserved a lot of snails and parasites and did a lot of pipetting.”

Working in a foreign land, outside of her comfort zone, allowed Mcall to see how others live for the betterment of her future career in the medical field.

“It is easy to get stuck in your own experience, but seeing the conditions, the way other people live, gives me greater empathy and understanding,” she said...


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