Four weeks ago, we were in a different world, with the political imperative focused on dealing with the devastating flooding in parts of the country, before coronavirus took over our lives.
The exhibition ‘Parasites’ at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh reminds us of other devastating diseases which are still rife across the world, in this case caused by tiny parasites, which enter and invade the human body resulting in malaria, schistosomiasis, leishmaniasis, sleeping sickness and guinea worm disease, affecting 1 in every 18 people in the world.
Not known what was about to hit us this month (March 2020), it was a highly relevant exhibition for the current time, reinforcing many of the issues relevant to coronavirus – the importance of medical science and the testing and development of vaccines, the importance of getting key messages across in a variety of relevant and different ways, and also the importance of achieving precautions through behavioural change, in this case in some of the most rural and under-developed countries in the world.
The exhibition reinforces the challenges in fighting such diseases, but also gives optimism with the World Health Organization aiming to eliminate a number of them in the near future, in partnership with research centres such as those in Scotland at the Wellcome Centre for Anti-Infectives Research at the University of Dundee, Wellcome Centre for Integrative Parasitology at the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh infectious Diseases at the University of Edinburgh.
There are resources and interactive activities for children on the NMS website, including a computer game Micro Parasites, designed and built by students of the BSc Computer Games Design course at Glasgow Caledonia University in partnership with the National Museums Scotland. Perhaps some of the youngsters who play will become medical researchers and scientists of the future?