I researched, wrote and illustrated “The Ten Most Disgusting Creatures (that are living on you right now)” for Maxim, and no, none of them is Heidi Montag, because technically viruses aren’t alive.
Final version on Maxim’s website, my draft below.
1. Acanthamoeba is a common amoeba that feeds on bacteria just about everywhere, so you can clean your contact lenses with tap water and later suffer keratitis, an eye affliction. It might also take the road less travelled to an encephalitis with a 97% mortality rate. But hey, at least your glasses won’t make you look bookish! It sometimes teams up with MRSA for airborne, unkillable terror.
2. Toxoplasma gondii parties wherever mammals are. Eat undercooked meat? That’s a toxoplasmosin’. Drink unpasteurized milk? Toxoplasmosin’. Own a cat? You’d better believe that’s a toxoplasmosin’. You’ll think you have the flu, unless you’re a rat suddenly compelled to seek out cats. Then you’ll know the damn protozoan is turning you into its suicide bomber. Don’t worry – in humans it simply makes you slow and schizophrenic. It also makes some young ladies smarter, because even viruses give pretty girls special treatment.
3. Entamoeba Gingivalis is one of our oldest microscopic friends. Toothy the Tooth Amoeba basically hugs his food to death, meaning we’re not host to a friendly colony of cute jellybags, we’re homeworld to The Blob. It’s hard to call these guys disgusting when they’re cleaning teeth where even floss dare not reach, but you haven’t heard about their vacation spot– they’re big fans of the uterus – particularly intrauterine devices. If your lady has a diaphragm, say hi to the tooth amoeba hanging out there! And yes, it’s your fault. Oh, by the way, without proper brushing (which they run from), these treacherous devils go to town on gum and bone.
4. Candida is universal skin fungus, but when it gets out of control, you’d better have time for a yeast infection. What’s keeping it in check? Well, partially your immune system, and partially the presence of other microbiotic organisms, which is sort of like your body is Gangs of New York, and the only thing stopping Bill the Butcher from ruling your streets is smaller, more violent DiCaprios.
5. Dust mites are little buggers crawling all over you right now, nibbling on your sloughed off skin cells. “So what?” you say, I can’t see them, and they’re cleaning up dandruff! Ah-ha, but they’re essentially tiny ticks! “So what?” you say again, “they don’t actually suck blood or give me diseases.” Ah-ha-HA! We rejoinder, their feces are a huge reason you’re allergic to dust. Another debate won with shit-talk! These fugly buglies thrive on mattresses, but can’t abide cooler temperatures, and are actually a case against an unmade bed. (True tale!)
6. Mycobacteria are the Krypton of bacterial genuses. These little guys are at the height of their civilization, practically invulnerable, and they love to fire what few babies they have straight at humanity to walk among us in secret. You might have heard of one notorious strain called Myobacterium Tuberculosis, which exists latently in 1/3 of the world’s population. There are 1.5 times more people with the TB parasite than with blue eyes. The black sheep of the family is the crazed cannibal known as leprosy, which causes your body parts to rot off.
7. Escherichia coli. Ah, E. coli, you fecal-loving villain. You rascally cause of 90% of urinary tract infections. You intractable resident of the lower intestine. Most E. coli strains live in peace with their human hosts, and even produce a type of Vitamin K for humans while policing our intestinal borders from worse bacteria. But some E. coli choose the murderer’s path, targeting the elderly and babies like a coward. Your quarrel’s with us men, E. coli! We’re the ones who said “No!” to the tasty spinach on which you flourish.
8. Endogenous retroviruses don’t technically live on you, since viruses aren’t alive. They’re something far more horrifying: soulless packets of code just waiting to overwrite your very DNA. Retroviruses celljack your body and play Grand Theft Auto with your systems until they get five stars and the law takes them down. Except some retroviruses infect our reproductive cells (sperm and eggs) and piggyback our hard-won evolution for the next 10,000 years. It’s like having a buddy who not only cockblocks, but never picks up his round at the bar.
9. Sooner or later, everyone gets pinworms — unless you get them in Great Britain, where the Enterobius nematode is called threadworms, apartments are called flats, and everyone drives on the left side of the street. It’s madness there! Anyway, you don’t want pinworms, an intestinal pest whose biggest discernible symptom is an itchy anus caused by Mama Pinworm depositing 16,000 eggs on the dark side of your moon. Real classy, lady.
10. Trichomonas vaginalis lives one place and one place only: the human junk. And because it’s a jerk, it lives in men for years with few or no symptoms, then announces itself up in your lady’s parts with, “a yellow-green, itchy, frothy foul-smelling vaginal discharge,” which is too many adjectives for any good to come of it. Knocking her up with a 9-month parasite wasn’t enough? You had to scorch the earth behind you? Ah, but she’s a good woman, she’ll forgive you in a year or six.