T. cruzi, the nasty behind Chagas. Over 6 million have it, but it's hardly talked about.

Throughout the week, I’ve continued working through all the parasites with the wonderful team of staff. They’ve really made me feel at home, offering me cups of (unbelievably good) Sri Lankan tea, welcoming all my questions, and giving up a lot of time to teach and help me. Dr Ranasinghe was incredibly supportive and happy to answer all my newbie parasitologist questions, and I’ve learned an enormous amount. I have a side interest in tropical and neglected medical illnesses from following Médecins sans frontières (Doctors without Borders) missions over the years, and a highlight for me has been squeezing in time to go through their international samples and see some of the exotic parasites I’d read about that. Two that caught my eye were the parasites behind African sleeping sickness and Chagas diseases, Trypanosoma brucei and Trypanosoma cruzi respectively.

Ascaris. Burrows into lungs until you cough up and swallow it. I may never sleep again.

I’ve dipped my toe into reading about cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL), a sandfly-transmitted parasitic disease that produces skin lesions. One of the junior doctors tells me it’s quite common, and one of her friends was shocked to find out she’d developed it after having a test on a skin ulcer that wouldn’t heal. Dr Ranasinghe is a global expert in CL, so I took the opportunity to ask her a few last questions.

An Ixodes tick, which may transmit Lyme or babesiosis.

I even got to see some of the in-progress post-doctoral research being undertaken into new approaches to diagnose CL, using a technique called Fluorescence in Situ Hybridization (FISH). I can’t help being interested in seeing medical work undertaken with a practical application to improving healthcare. No matter how small the cog, every little finding adds up to build methods and guidelines that save and improve lives. CL is classed as a neglected tropical disease, but it is poised to become an emerging threat and there are still a lot of questions clinically unanswered about optimal diagnostics and management; this work has obvious importance. I got photos with the team, and thanked them for looking after me. I’ll definitely be missing them as I leave the University campus to shift over to surgery at Colombo South Teaching Hospital (CSTH).

An Indian cobra, with it's trademark 'smiley face' markings. Deadly.

As I was heading out the door, some slides came in from a young boy with a suspected Entamoeba histolytica infection, and I had a chance to view them and try to form a diagnosis, too. E. histolyticais responsible for the disease amoebiasis.

A saw-scaled viper. Also deadly. What is this, Australia?

If symptomatic, it manifests as ulcers through the bowel causing bloody diarrhoea, and eventually can go on to affect other organs too. I needed some help identifying the cysts, but the numerous red blood cells in the stool sample were impossible to miss. Being on the other side to see the clinical connection between patients and a diagnostic lab was an awesome extra opportunity, and gives me a better appreciation for how these teams work together.