For the second time in recent years, US President Barack Obama has had a newly discovered parasite named after him. In 2012, Paragordius obamai, a new nematode (roundworm) was named after the 44th President of the US, whose father was raised in Kenya where the parasite is found.
Now, retired St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana parasitologist, Thomas R. Platt has discovered and named a blood fluke, a type of flatworm, Baracktrema obamai after the current president.
The new genus and species is named in honor of Barack Obama, and 5th cousin, twice removed, of Dr. Platt.
“This is something I take very seriously, and I am doing this with the utmost of respect,” said Platt. “If he were facing another election, I probably would not have done it.”
B. obamai infects black marsh turtles and southeast Asian box turtles in Malaysia. Scientists study turtle parasites because they are believed to be the ancestors of the parasites that cause schistosomiasis.
In 2012, legendary reggae musician, Bob Marley also had a parasite named after him.
According to the study abstract:
Baracktrema obamai n. gen., n. sp. infects the lung of geoemydid turtles (black marsh turtle, Siebenrockiella crassicollis [type host] and southeast Asian box turtle, Cuora amboinensis) in the Malaysian states of Perak, Perlis, and Selangor.
Baracktrema and Unicaecum Stunkard, 1925 are the only accepted turtle blood fluke genera having the combination of a single cecum, single testis, oviducal seminal receptacle, and uterine pouch. Baracktrema differs from Unicaecum by having a thread-like body approximately 30−50× longer than wide and post-cecal terminal genitalia. Unicaecum has a body approximately 8−12× longer than wide and terminal genitalia that are anterior to the distal end of the cecum.
The new genus further differs from all other accepted turtle blood fluke genera by having a cecum that is highly convoluted for its entire length, a spindle-shaped ovary between the cirrus sac and testis, a uterine pouch that loops around the primary vitelline collecting duct, a Laurer’s canal, and a dorsal common genital pore.
The present study comprises the 17th blood fluke known to infect geoemydid turtles and the first proposal of a new genus of turtle blood fluke in 21 yr.
Read the complete paper at The Journal of Parasitology