Trying to identify a story where:

  • A person (man/woman?) somehow contracts a pathogen that leans to communicate with him.
  • The pathogen is something like an amoeba.
  • the person is hunted by others trying to take or contain the pathogen.
  • the pathogen is intelligent and can communicate with the person.
  • they become an enhanced symbiotic organism, and use the skills to avoid capture.
  • It sounds a little like Hal Clement's 1949 novel Needle.
    – Joe L.
    Apr 27, 2016 at 16:22
  • That is not the book i'm thinking of, but thanks for passing it on, its now on my reading list :) The story I'm thinking about was based on modern times and the pathogen is more like an amoeba (i'll edit he original question to include that) Apr 27, 2016 at 17:03
  • The notion of a collectively intelligent infection also shows up in Alan E. Nourse' 1959 novel Star Surgeon, but I think it is also not the one you seek. Apr 27, 2016 at 17:47
  • 3
    Sounds like Blood Music, and reminds me of the games Parasite Eve or Prototype.
    – DCShannon
    Apr 27, 2016 at 18:45
  • I haven't read it, so don't know how well it fits, but one book on my 'to read' list is Parasite by Mira Grant. it involves genetically engineered tapeworms. But I think they actually take over the people, rather than just communicate with them.
    – timbp
    Apr 28, 2016 at 2:54

5 Answers 5


Blood Music, Greg Bear (ISBN 0-7434-4496-5)

A biochemist working with biological computers attempts to save his work after being ordered to destroy it, by injecting it into himself.

While living inside him, the cells evolve and create a nanoscale civilization, who then learn to communicate with their host.

The original question might be updated to be clear, since what I remember isn't exactly what I read :) To find it, I started looking though authors I like, until something popped into my memory. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_Music_(novel)

  • Good work. Congrats on keeping at it and finding the book!
    – FuzzyBoots
    May 6, 2016 at 13:15
  • One more to go :) May 6, 2016 at 13:16

James White's Final Diagnosis, one of the Sector General books, fits this pretty well. A man has a number of unusual illnesses and is being treated in the inter species hospital. Eventually it turns out that in an accident as a child he was "infected" with a nanotechnology Doctor by an alien, and it is still present in his system. Because it does not understand his body well enough, it prevents him from many normal body functions except through great pain involved. Eventually the doctor, which had been affecting his mind, hops to another patient and eventually develops consciousness and telepathy and expresses its sincere gratitude for the being around it, saying it wishes to live in the heart of a star.

Meanwhile the entire hospital staff is flipping out because this is the only case ever of a disease (at least that's what they think it is) able to infect multiple species.

Sound familiar?

  • Pretty sure you're conflating two separate Sector General stories there. The one with the built-in doctor who misunderstands his patient's physiology is the short story "Resident Physician", later published as part of the fix-up novel Star Surgeon and collected in Aldiss's Galactic Empires omnibus. Apr 28, 2016 at 8:38
  • Could be, haven't read the later books (Galactic Gourmet and after) for a long time (can't find my copies any more) and trying to find meaningful summaries of the books is remarkably difficult. If I am confusing the issue, thank you for correcting me :)
    – Broklynite
    Apr 28, 2016 at 10:31
  • That's not the one I'm thinking of, but it does sound like it needs reading :) May 6, 2016 at 12:44

It's probably not the story you are looking for, but in the "Parasites Lost" episode of Futurama, the worms Fry gets from a bad egg salad sandwich enhance his capabilities, and he does (for a time ) try to escape those wanting to cure him. So it seems to match.


This is such a common trope in science fiction, all of us can probably mention at least one movie or series where these parameters take place. A modern version of this story is retold in the anime series, Parasyte the Maxim.

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Parasyte (Japanese: 寄生獣 Hepburn: Kiseijū?, lit. "Parasitic Beasts") is a science fiction horror manga series written and illustrated by Hitoshi Iwaaki, and published in Kodansha's Afternoon magazine from 1988 to 1995. The manga was published in North America by first Tokyopop, then Del Rey, and finally Kodansha Comics USA. An anime television series adaptation by Madhouse, titled Parasyte -the maxim- (寄生獣 セイの格率 Kiseijū Sei no Kakuritsu?), aired in Japan between October 2014 and March 2015.

  • Parasyte centers on a 17-year-old male named Shinichi Izumi, who lives with his mother and father in a quiet neighborhood in Tokyo. One night, worm-like creatures called Parasites appear on Earth, taking over the brains of human hosts by entering through their ears or noses.

  • One Parasite attempts to crawl into Shinichi's ear while he sleeps, but fails as Shinichi is wearing headphones, and enters his body by burrowing into his arm instead. In the Japanese version, it takes over his right hand and is named Migi (ミギー?), after the Japanese word for 'right'; Tokyopop's version, in which the images are flipped horizontally, has the Parasite take over Shinichi's left hand and it is named Lefty.

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  • Because Shinichi was able to prevent Migi from travelling further up into his brain, both beings retain their separate intellect and personality. As the duo encounter other Parasites, they capitalize on their strange situation and gradually form a strong bond, working together to survive.

  • This gives them an edge in battling other Parasites who frequently attack the pair upon realization that Shinichi's human brain is still intact. Shinichi feels compelled to fight other Parasites, who devour humans as food, while enlisting Migi's help.

Even if this isn't your particular story, it is a worthy addition to the annals of such tales, told with a macabre perspective on the Human race and our propensity for our own self-destruction.


If I were thinking about books, I would add the possibility of Blood Music by Greg Bear.

  • In the novel, renegade biotechnologist Vergil Ulam creates simple biological computers based on his own lymphocytes. Faced with orders from his nervous employer to destroy his work, he injects them into his own body, intending to smuggle the 'noocytes' (as he calls them) out of the company and work on them elsewhere.

  • Inside Ulam's body, the noocytes multiply and evolve rapidly, altering their own genetic material and quickly becoming self-aware. The nanoscale civilization they construct soon begins to transform Ulam, then others. The people who are infected start to find that genetic faults such as myopia and high blood pressure get fixed. Ulam's eyesight, posture, strength and intelligence are all improved. The infected can even have conversations with their noocytes, some reporting that the cells seem to sing.

  • Yes, Blood Music was the book I was looking for, I found it a while after posting :) Sep 10, 2016 at 15:04

There is also an episode of Red Dwarf where Lister gets infected with the Epideme Virus. The others inject him with antibiotics to isolate the virus to a limb before cutting it off.

Plus the Descolada virus in Orson Scott Card's Xenocide, which is a symbiont to the "piggies", indiginous aliens on the planet.


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