What would a parasite’s travel blog look like?

That’s the question artists Jen Southern and Rod Dillon asked us, in response to our open call with NEoN Festival. We had no idea! But we were definitely intrigued to see Leishmania’s travel blog. We awarded them a commission, part of our science art programme. We brought our scientists and the artists together over coffee and blank sheets of paper. Together, we began to make maps. With them, we covered Leishmania’s journeys through bodies, around cells and across the world. We made a fascinating collection of our stories emerged across the internet and social media. We published them as Para-site-seeing as part of the festival in November 2018, and we were delighted with the response.

Fast forward to early 2019. We were due to have an exhibition in LifeSpace art research gallery. Due to a change of staff at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, we faced new challenges and opportunities. We initially asked Rod and Jen about including some elements of their work in a broader show. They responded with a bright, colourful, immersive idea; we could take over our whole gallery with the Para-site-seeing travel blog.

Enter the Departure Lounge

Their concept was different to most of what LifeSpace had seen in the past. The whole show would be one journey connecting the smaller ones. It would feel like you were going on a holiday. People would arrive at our check-in desk, pick up their passport and become the parasite. We’d let them head through to departures, into the lounge and even board their flight, in a simulated sand fly gut. As in real life, your passport would be a key part of letting you travel. Each page would have a story and, perhaps most importantly, a place for you to stamp, to say you had been on that part of the journey.

We’re delighted to say the exhibition enjoyed a busy and buzzy (pun somewhat intended) time in LifeSpace. We’ve seen visitors from scientific symposia, public event days and the MRC Festival. In even better news, it’s also flown down to Dundee Science Centre’s cafe space. You can go in for free, buy yourself a coffee and continue to imagine that parasiteseeing trip you’ve always promised yourself…




Leishmania is a very ancient parasite. This piece started as an Instagram channel showing beautiful, quirky angles of sand flies trapped in amber. They are many millions of years old.


We use a strain of Leishmania donovani (Ld) in our lab called BOB. Why is this its name? Have a look at its Twitter feed and find out. Better still, write BOB a message either online or on our lo-fi, old school pinboard as a creative part of your para-site-seeing trip.

Sandfly in amber on a lightbox
Image copyright Erika Stevenson
A view of various Parasiteseeing travel blog exhibition sections
Image copyright Erika Stevenson


A lot of folks seem to think this is about a cool cat! While we love that idea, it’s actually about a view into our Category 3 lab suites. This is where we keep dangerous parasites like LdBOB. Our videos will give you a parasite-eye-view as Lesley-Anne, one our our scientists, takes it on another journey.


You’ve seen our labs in Dundee as part of the Drug Discovery Unit. Now, as you get ready to board your sand flight, you can take a look at Rod Dillon’s insect research lab in Lancaster.


Do you need a newspaper to read on your para-site-seeing trip? We’ve created one! Inspired by DC Thomson’s two intrepid lady reporters from Dundee, we’re charing the history of Leishmania’s travel around the world.

Visceral Media

Check our our website for links to international stories and educational videos from around the world. You might even find a celebrity or two who’ve been para-site-seeing…

Prof. Fairlamb enjoys the Unleished newspaper
Image copyright Erika Stevenson
To travel is to live
Image copyright Erika Stevenson


Step from the departure lounge into our sand fly gut. Leishmania multiply by dividing to produce clones of the original parasite. This story started on Instagram as a series of family snapshots, as the parasites travel rom the human blood stream into the fly’s gut.


In our labs, we are developing new medicines to cute Leishmania in humans. This assassin story is like an airport novel as it tracks down its target.