Over the past few days the hashtag #IAmAScientistBecause has been all over Twitter, with scientists from every discipline and background taking to their keys to explain why they love what they do. From a constant thirst for knowledge to being able to work with some awesome gadgets, the reasons were all completely different, but the general consensus was that science is incredible, which so many more people need to know!

It got me to thinking what it is that I love about science, and while there are many aspects of biology that I enjoy, for me it’s got to be diseases. Show me an infection riddled leg, a real life ‘vampire’ or someone with trees for legs and you’ll have me hooked. Not matter the cause, and the rarer the better, it’s always been the subject that’s interested me the most.

So, without further ado, I present to you (in no particular order) the 3 conditions that I find most fascinating… 

  • Necrotising Fasciitis (aka Flesh-Eating Disease)

Caused by the bacteria S. pyogenes, necrotising fasciitis is an infection of the soft tissue of the body (i.e. your skin and flesh). The bacteria enter the skin through an open wound and release toxins that kill off the tissue, causing it to turn black and break open. The most staggering thing about this infection though is how quickly it spreads. Instead of taking days to cause any serious damage, a necrotic area can expand in a couple of hours (as per the image below of this poor gentleman from Mexico). This was the first disease that really stuck with me- a bacteria that can ‘strip’ the flesh from your body in a matter of hours?!- and the one that, arguably, made me want to continue to study microbiology.

*Relatively graphic content of evolving Necrotising Fasciitis* 

  • Fibrodysplasia ossificans progessiva (aka Stone Man Syndrome)

I first learnt about this disorder on Grey’s Anatomy (yes, I know, but have you SEEN McDreamy?), and after watching the over-dramatised plot-line, I did some research to find out what the condition actually was. FOP is a curious disorder that turns the muscle and connective tissue in the body into bone over time, making it difficult for the sufferer to move. While more of the muscular tissue progressively becomes bone, a trauma (even a trip or fall) can cause the muscle tissue to become inflamed and speed up the process with whole limbs becoming unmovable, meaning that surgery to remove bone does more harm than good. In worse case scenarios sufferers can be locked in their bodies, like living statues. A rare disease, there are estimated to be only 3,300 sufferers worldwide.

Skeleton of an FOP patient (credit Wikipedia)

  • Elephantiasis

Thickening of the skin causes disfiguration of the limbs, characterising this disease. Caused by a parasite, the arms, legs and even scrotal regions swell to huge proportions as fluid builds up, causing mobility problems (see the image below). The deformities from this infection can last a lifetime.

Elephantiasis (credit Wikipedia)

Having spent so much time looking into disease and how even a little bacteria can cause such devastation, I would have to say that I am a scientist because I want to be able to educate other people on the detrimental effects disease can have, in the hopes that we can develop cures and treatments for some of the more serious conditions that are affecting lives.

Here is a link to the BuzzFeed article giving some of the best twitter responses, let me know in the comments why you are a scientist (whether it’s in body or mind)!



  1. Léa sinica · April 14, 2015

    Hi, I was wondering if you knew which episode of Grey’s anatomy talked about FOS ? I can’t remember and google has been completely useless.
    Other than that, the 3 diseases I find the most fascinating are:
    -Dissociative Identity disorder.
    -Psychopathy (although it isn’t really a disease.)
    -And the Stone man syndrome.

    • mwilde · April 14, 2015

      The episode was ‘My Favourite Mistake’, s3e19 :). Dissociative Identity Disorder is another intriguing one, I agree!

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