Big Fleas Have Little Fleas
How Discoveries of Invertebrate Diseases Are Advancing Modern Science
In this book, Elizabeth Davidson shares amazing stories about diseases of insects and other invertebrates important to people—and about the scientists who learned to use those diseases to control pests and create products beneficial to humans. Focusing on insect-microbial interactions crucial to public health, she tells detective stories ranging across global history, from the silkworm farms of nineteenth-century Japan to the research labs of modern America. In these fascinating accounts, Davidson shows us how human health often comes down to a contest of bug against bug. Even habitats seething with bacteria, such as the runoff from cattle farms or sewage treatment plants, are also teeming with invertebrate life—animals that, like ourselves, have ways of fighting infection.
Scientific curiosity about what allows creatures as simple as water fleas to survive in such polluted environments has led to the discovery of chemicals with remarkable properties and potential usefulness to humankind. From diseases of shellfish to parasites of bees, Davidson opens a window on a world most of us never stop to consider—but which matters to all of us more than we might ever imagine. In our present era of pandemic scares, Big Fleas Have Little Fleas is a sweeping historical review that’s as timely as tomorrow’s headlines, showing us that the most exciting discoveries can emerge from the smallest sources.