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Sources:

Carl Zimmer, "Parasite Rex"
carlzimmer.com/books/parasiterex/excerpt.html

Carl Zimmer, "Mammals Made By Viruses"
blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom/2012/02/14/mammals-made-by-viruses/#.VQcoAkJ3FAs

Alcock, Maley & Aktipis, "Microbial Manipulators"
bit.ly/1bcl7sS

Why We Get Sick, Chapters 3 and 4

Evolution and Medicine, Chapters 7, 8 and 9

Evolution in Health and Disease, Chapters 2, 10, 12 and 17

lyrics

Parasite wars, viruses, spores
Protozoa, bacteria, microbes galore
They evolve faster
But we can flip their strategy backwards
Before they turn us into eyesores

Parasite wars are ancient, we’ve been entangled
With ‘em since before we had a brain on the tip of our brainstem
Trapped in an arms race with ‘em, runnin’ to keep
Pace with ‘em, Red Queen, stuck in one place with the
Microbes, if you’re thinkin’ they’re quite gross
Disgust is beneficial for a parasite’s host
Every host-parasite interaction is a mystery
Until you consider its evolutionary history
That’s the enigma code, Alan Turing
Gotta stay out of the water when a guinea worm is burrowing
That burning acid is just to get you to splash in
The river so the bastard’s eggs are broadcasted
Ask Jimmy Carter, it isn’t hard to take hold of
The situation by interrupting host manipulation
Don’t scratch it! Damn, that feeling of itchiness
Was just to get you to attach eggs to your fingertips
Parasites have evolved to manipulate
Our behaviour so that their genes proliferate
What you think a sneeze is for, clearing your nostrils?
Nah, that’s a virus takin’ over the launch codes

Parasite wars, fighting for lives never high scores
Escalate the arms race with the strike force
The harder we hit them
The more they fight back with resistance
Tryin’ to find the right course
Parasite wars, viruses, spores
Protozoa, bacteria, microbes galore
They evolve faster
But we can flip their strategy backwards
Before they turn us into eyesores

Parasite wars, whoa, they’re clever as hell
How’d they get to know us better than we know ourselves?
How does rabies virus know to go for the saliva glands
And attack the brain and make a mammal crazy fighting mad
Foaming at the mouth, ready to bite and pass
On a mouthful of crazy little baby rabies viruses
Damn, that’s a clever little parasite
Plasmodia live in mosquitos in the air in flight
But they’re patient, they never attack a carrier
Benign in mosquitos but in people they’re malaria?
Leavin’ you weaker and weaker, weeks and weeks of fever
’Til you’re nothin’ but a sack of hot meat, a mosquito feeder
Ahhh, there’s a method to the madness
Effects are selected when benefits are adaptive
For the pathogens, that’s why some are deadly serious
And others are mild: it’s the evolution of virulence
Cholera can spread through vectors like the water systems
We can pass it on even from incapacitated victims
But STDs are different, they only keep working
If they leave you on your feet and flirting

Parasite wars, fighting for lives never high scores
Escalate the arms race with the strike force
The harder we hit them
The more they fight back with resistance
Tryin’ to find the right course
Parasite wars, viruses, spores
Protozoa, bacteria, microbes galore
They evolve faster
But we can flip their strategy backwards
Before they turn us into eyesores

Parasite wars!
We got the pattern figured out
Some can only spread if they keep you walkin’ around
Others spread better if you’re stuck in bed in agony
And they don’t give a plasmid about you and your family
So all we gotta do is interrupt the vectors
And lower virulence is artificially selected
That’s one way to leave disease decimated
If you can’t beat it, you can try to domesticate it
We’ve already domesticated a few
There’s a hundred trillion microbes inside of you
They’re commensals, but they can make you crave food
Hijack your vagus nerve and affect your mood
But microbiota isn’t even as deep as it gets
Your DNA is chock full of endogenous retroviruses
Your ancestor got an STD
It got trapped in your genome next to the rest of your genes
And adapted to help your placenta get implanted
So next time you catch a virus maybe you should thank it
Ha! Watch out for the vectors
The double agents and defectors

In the parasite wars, fighting for lives never high scores
Escalate the arms race with the strike force
The harder we hit them
The more they fight back with resistance
Tryin’ to find the right course
Parasite wars, viruses, spores
Protozoa, bacteria, microbes galore
They evolve faster
But we can flip their strategy backwards
Before they turn us into eyesores

credits

from The Rap Guide to Medicine, released March 18, 2015

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