What are the weirdest things people have done in the name of science?

Yi-Te Lai is a Taiwanese parasitologist (parasite biologist) who studies leeches. In 2019, while writing a paper on a poorly-understood leech known as Dinobdella ferox, Lai went above and beyond expectations to advance our knowledge of the species.

Dinobdella ferox is a member of the praobdellids, a nasty family of parasites which, unlike other leeches, do not suck blood from the exterior of their hosts. Rather, they attach themselves to the mucous membranes, found inside the body. D. ferox enters via the nose, or worse, the anus, or worst, the urethra.

In order to document the life cycle, habits and symptoms of these nasty leeches, Yi-Te Lai voluntarily inserted one into his nose not once, not twice, but three times! At the time of infestation, each Dinobdella was a few millimetres long:

The worm then stayed in his nasal cavity for as many as 75 days, sucking his blood all the while. He noted effects such as nosebleeds, stinging up his nostrils, and inflammation of the mucous membranes. He took regular blood tests, and frequently monitored his tenant by endoscopy (that in itself is already quite an invasive procedure!)

As each leech gorged itself, it enlarged at a sickening rate. In one of the three trials, it increased in size three hundred and eighty-fold! They were often externally visible towards the end of their stays, due to their size. Hopefully none of them decided to stick their head out while he was talking to people…

The worm then stayed in his nasal cavity for as many as 75 days, sucking his blood all the while. He noted effects such as nosebleeds, stinging up his nostrils, and inflammation of the mucous membranes. He took regular blood tests, and frequently monitored his tenant by endoscopy (that in itself is already quite an invasive procedure!)

As each leech gorged itself, it enlarged at a sickening rate. In one of the three trials, it increased in size three hundred and eighty-fold! They were often externally visible towards the end of their stays, due to their size. Hopefully none of them decided to stick their head out while he was talking to people…


At the end of each trial, after the nosebleeds stopped (presumably meaning the leech had finished feeding), Lai managed to coax his nose-dwelling friend towards the nostril by holding his face over a bowl of water, and then pulled it out by hand.

Many people would be utterly horrified and baffled as to why someone would do this, but I personally have a lot of respect and admiration for Yi-Te Lai’s dedication. Because he voluntarily infected himself with these blood-sucking parasites, we now know a lot about a once-mysterious species.

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