Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition.
Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, 1776.
Allen A. Alan, Thesis Not Faeces: A Guide to Why Just Looking at Poo isn’t Science, 2010.
Illness: A Dreadful Attack of the Fainting McKeiths
Discovered by: Technically the alternative parasite responsible for dreadful attacks of the fainting mckeiths was first isolated and sustained as an independent organism by a research group led by Professor Antanddec at the Jungle Institute for Research into Glamorous Leeches. However the association of the parasite with dreadful attacks was first discovered in 1994 in a shed outside a health food shop by some guy. He’s dead now.
Epidemiology: The fainting mckeith alternative parasite is highly attracted to the sight of faeces. As such it can be found in environments wherever faeces can be easily visualised. Such environments will obviously include toilets, sewage systems and the Living channel. However individuals do not have to spend a lot of time in these environments to become infested. As part of its life cycle the fainting mckeith sits around looking at mung beans. Anyone that eats these beans is therefore at risk of becoming riddled with the beasts. It is estimated that between 0 and 100% of people contain a fainting mckeith. No gender, ethnicity or age is particularly at risk although for some reason the fainting mckeith is particularly attracted to lawyers.
Aetiology: The lifecycle of the fainting mckeith is shown in the figure below. The fainting mckeith can be taxonomically categorised as some sort of parasitic spider/insect/monkey/nutritionist. As it is an alternative parasite it sadly cannot be shown in an actual picture, only as an illustration. This is proof enough. Its primary source of food is from looking at things rather than ingesting them in the traditional sense. As such anything the mckeith regards as food would not be regarded in this fashion by a human.
Figure 1. Not like a figure like a man is a figure, but a figure like a picture of something. The lifecycle of the fainting mckeith. Gaze upon it with awe and despair. Then vomit.
The fainting mckeith in its adult form spends most of its time hanging around in the environment looking at faeces. Once it has looked at enough faeces it transfers what it has learned about those faeces into a nest made out of toilet paper in the shape of a book. This is technically known as the mckeith pile of harassed defaecation (PhD). The purpose of the PhD is to interest another fainting mckeith with which to half-heartedly reproduce. Following this both fainting mckeiths attempt to sue each other and die of being excessively litigious. Eventually the PhD regurgitates the larval fainting mckeiths which stagger off to look at some mung beans. If these mung beans are eaten by a human for some reason the larval fainting mckeiths make their way to the large intestine where they grow to maturity.
While in the intestine the fainting mckeiths start to release alternative chlorophyll. Unlike normal chlorophyll, alternative chlorophyll can work without sunlight. Alternative chlorophyll is capable of photosynthesis when any idiot says it is. The stuff released through the alternative photosynthesis (goji berries probably) starts to dissolve small holes throughout the intestines and eventually the host’s entire body. Once the host is suitably holistic they begin to experience the dreadful attack of the fainting mckeiths.
Eventually the now fully grown mckeith gets bored of its own lifecycle and wanders through one of the holes it has made to look at some faeces. Sometimes it makes a big pile of food representing all the food its host has eaten in the past week. It has evolved this mechanism to make the host cry out any fainting mckeiths that may remain in the host’s body.
Symptoms: As described, an individual has to become suitably holistic before they start to exhibit symptoms. While walking, the wind blows through the millions of tiny holes in the host. This creates a noise which sounds like the individual is constantly whining on and on about detoxing and algae dinners. The parasite engorged unfortunate will then start to formulate theories about why they are making that god-awful racket. Sadly they will be too packed with mckeiths and any theory they come up with will be full of holes. In order to disguise this the host will pretend to faint in a fashion more dramatic and spectacular than a popping candy volcano. As they drop hesitantly to the ground they will emit acting less convincing than Keanu Reeves pretending to be Ben Affleck playing Daredevil. Nobody will be convinced and everybody watching will make a sad face.
But the tale of the dreadful attack of the fainting mckeiths doesn’t end there for the inflicted. Unless treated they will begin to collect shreds of peer reviewed scientific journals. They will then take these journals and turn it into some sort of papier mache, distorting all the research and evidence within them, and fashion it into a cocoon-like structure. It is thought by placebologists this is a sub-conscious attempt to protect themselves from all the holes they and their theories contain. Finally, while shrouded in their rickety cloak of scientific authority, the final indignity of the dreadful attack of the fainting mckeiths forces the host to try and import horny goat weed for their own sexual satisfaction. They will fail and claim it has nothing to do with EU regulations. Then they will splutter something about “looking at tongue-spleens” and fart into the release of death.
Treatment: Ben Goldacre