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Autobiography of a Parasitologist

James Edward Ackert
Transactions of the American Microscopical Society
Vol. 88, No. 1 (Jan., 1969), pp. 3-67
Published by: Wiley on behalf of American Microscopical Society
DOI: 10.2307/3224659
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3224659
Page Count: 65
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Autobiography of a Parasitologist
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Abstract

Born in a northern Illinois village of teacher parents, moved at 3 1/2 years to the home farm near Dixon which became my home until marriage. Educated in country schools, in NISNS three years, University of Illinois, Urbana six years, shorter periods at Johns Hopkins and Cambridge (England) Universities. Career at Kansas State University, Manhattan, as Zoologists, and Parasitologist of Agricultural Experiment Station. Taught elementary and advanced zoology and parasitology, 1913-30; afterward only parasitology. Became Dean of Graduate School. Had graduate research assistants. Research.-Confirmed relationship of house fly to life cycle of chicken tapeworms. With an advanced student, determined which groups of roundworm larvae migrate to lungs on way to throat and intestine. In 1921, joined Dr. W. W. Cort's Rockefeller International Health Board Team including D. L. Augustine to Trinidad, West Indies for hookworm control. With the resident Rockefeller Hookworm Control Team, Dr. G. C. Payne an wife Dr. Florence K. Payne, much was accomplished in one summer. The sieves and funnels of the Baermann discovery in 1917, modified somewhat and used for the first time in the western hemisphere brought to light surprising behavior patterns in soil of the New World hookworm larvae of Necator americanus Stiles. With this knowledge and other discoveries which followed, sound progress was made for the control of hookworm and the return of the ill to health and work. Healthy Chickens Raised in Confinement for Experimental Parasitology.-The ease of obtaining fowl Ascaridia and their fertile eggs for culturing, and the omnivorous feeding habit of the fowl, basically similar to that of man and most domestic animals, led our research group to raise consecutive generations of chickens in confinement. Fully described in the text, the effort succeeded. Several hundred chicks were raised to maturity without any leg weakness; 15 chickens from one lot remained in the pens three years in healthy condition. The successful raising of the chickens in confinement was attributed to the supply of sunshine through the open south windows and steam radiator heat when needed, to supplements of green feed and milk to a cereal basal ration and to free run of the pen with litter and feed trough. The results first published in 1923 preceded all other known successes of this kind. All oral and published results of experiments carried messages of experimental and control groups being raised in confinement until the fact was widespread. Effects of Ascaridia on Chickens and Discovery of Age Resistance.-Our Research Group, by the experimental and control groups of similar chickens (except parasitism by feeding Ascaridia eggs), found marked effects of the Ascaridia on one-month-old chickens and some mortality; the controls remained normal. When the same numbers of Ascaridia eggs were fed to chickens three months old the effects were minimal and no chickens died. The control group remained normal. After repetitions of the tests, the results showed that young chickens are very susceptible to the growth of Ascaridia, but that those three months old were quite resistant to the development of worm larvae in their intestines. Such a growth-inhibiting factor will be treated later. In an investigation of age resistance, it was found that young Ascaridia in five-day chickens made a growth of over 5 mm in the first ten days, while the hatched parasites in chickens over 100 days old were not able to make a growth of over one-tenth of a millimeter during the first ten days. Vitamins as Factors in Resistance of Chickens to Ascaridia.-Having knowledge of the susceptibility of chickens one month old and of the resistance of three-month-old chickens to the growth of Ascaridia, experiments of a nutritional character on factors affecting resistance to Ascaridia showed that parasitized chicks on a diet lacking vitamin B had more worms and signigficantly longer ones than the worms in the +B (adequate) diet groups of chicks, indicating that the diet deficient in vitamin B, but adequate in all other ways, lowered the resistance of chickens to the growth of their parasites Ascaridia perspicillum. Similarly obtained and parasitized groups of chickens in five tests showed that the groups of chicks whose diet was deficient in vitamin A had significantly more Ascaridia and larger ones than did those groups of chicks whose diet contained this vitamin in an adequate amount. Similar tests with absence and presence of vitamin D showed that resistance of chickens to Ascaridia was not affected by absence of vitamin D. Presence of the vitamin, however, made the chickens more resistant to the effects of the parasites. The announcements from our laboratory that deficiencies of vitamin B (complex) and Fat-Soluble A lowered the resistance of chickens to ascarid parasitism, alerted the feed companies and dieticians to the importance of these vitamins in animal and human health. New Method of Collecting Intestinal Worms.-Using a combination of bloodless sacrificing of a chicken, rapid removal of small intestine, and flushing out contents with hot water faucet into glass jar containing chicken's aluminum leg band number avoids the troublesome mucus; jar put aside for worms to die uncoiled. Then preserved in weak formol. Worm length determined by aid of pencil and camera lucida magnified ten times, latter measured by milled wheel which reduces line length ten times. Records made in millimeters. The Food of Ascaridia.-Studying the food of the Ascaridia, parasitized chickens fed normally were compared with those nourished only with injections of 25% glucose in Locke's solution at 8 hr intervals. The results from over 200 chickens showed that the worms from the normally fed chickens grew markedly better than did worms in the chickens nourished only by muscular injections; the latter appeared to show no growth from the glucose injections. Young Ascaridia placed in the body cavity of chickens were unable to nourish themselves. The results showed that food of the nematode Ascaridia lineata consists mostly of host ingesta. An Inhibitory Growth Factor.-On making microscopic studies of the walls of the small intestine where the young Ascaridia live, it was found that as the chick gains in age the numbers of goblet cells per area increase. The same phenomenon occurs in rats. By growing young Ascaridia in artificial culture media into which autoclaved mucus from the duodenal goblet cells from resistant chickens was introduced, evidence was obtained which indicated that the mucus contained an inhibitory factor against growth of the young Ascaridia lineata (Schneider). (A discovery at the time.) Graduate assistants.-With the above outline of my educational life and samples of my researches, I will bring the Abstract to a close. I invite your attention to the careers of my graduate assistants as stated in the second portion of the Bibliography. All made valuable contributions to knowledge; two participated in raising the first two generations of chickens in confinement. After the public witnessed the preparation of vitamin D3 in quality to protect growing chickens indoors from developing leg weakness, the poultry industry began to forsake the old and put on the new-grow broilers for supermarket meat and indoor hens of eggs. Still there was trouble in the growing pens. Cecal and intestinal coccidia, minute blood-letting protozoa were wiping out profits. Two of my early graduate assistants, teacher C. A. Herrick and Ph.D. candidate S. A. Edgar prepared a formula for protecting chicks against coccidiosis. After World War II, the latter took a position of Poultry Pathologist, and with Herrick's blessings put the formula on a commercial basis available to the public. In 1966, growing chickens in confinement in the U.S. reached a peak of over 2.4 billion broilers, yielding an average of 15.2 cents per lb. and a gross income of more than $1.3 billion dollars (USDA, Athens, Ga. aid W. M. Reid).

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