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Oxford scientist is really bitten by the TV bug
A SCIENTIST fascinated with gruesome diseases and deadly creatures recounts being admitted to hospital three times during the filming of his latest TV show.
Dr Mike Leahy, 43, who grew up in Steventon, near Abingdon, and now lives in Shipton-under-Wychwood, presents Bite Me on National Geographic Wild from Thursday.
During the making of the series, the former motor mechanic visited all corners of the globe and often got “too close” to his subjects.
He said: “It’s about things that bite you or get inside your body, or do harm in other ways.
“We are looking at the really difficult, dangerous ones.
“Mosquitos kill a million people each year and then there are tapeworms that cause elephantiasis, leaving blokes with testicles the size of beach balls.
“There are some nasty diseases out there and a lot of them are spread by tiny creatures.”
The former John Mason School pupil, who studied at both Brookes and Oxford Universities after turning his back on fixing cars in his 20s, added: “When I got too close I ended up in hospital.
“In the last 10 years I’ve done a lot of self experimentation, it’s a pretty graphic way of showing other people what can happen.
“I’ve grown a four-metre tapeworm in my gut because I wanted to learn how people coped with them.
“The nearest I came to a near-death experience on this programme was in South America when I was bitten by fire ants.
“I did it on purpose, but I had an anaphylactic reaction and had to have adrenaline injections in my abdomen.
“A few days afterwards I tried some ayawaska tea, which is meant to purge you of parasites, but it causes you to vomit and hallucinate.
“My reaction to that was amazing – I saw the ground open up and erupt with ants, thousands of them swarming all over me.”
The series visited about 25 locations in eight countries, including Brazil, Borneo, India and Australia, where Dr Leahy dispelled some myths.
He said: “Australia has this reputation for deadly spiders, but they’ve only killed 26 people in the last 100 years.
“Four or five people die in the UK of wasp stings every year.
“You’re no more at risk in the Outback than going for a walk in the Cotswolds.”
The father-of-two said other scary moments included having a leech crawl down his back in Vietnam and feed off one of his testicles and being in hospital with waterborne Weil’s Disease for 12 weeks.
The show also looked at a fish deadly snakes and even a lethal caterpillar.
Bite Me is on Nat Geo Wild on Thursday at 9pm
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