Carmen Camacho Velasquez was a renowned Filipino parasitologist who dedicated her career to studying the parasites of tropical fish in the Philippines. Her work on the taxonomy of Digenea and discovery of the parasitic nematode Capillaria philippinensis, which causes intestinal capillariasis in humans, have had significant impacts on both the fields of parasitology and public health.
Velasquez’s passion for science began at a young age and led her to pursue a degree in zoology at the University of the Philippines Diliman. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she worked as a student assistant in the Department of Zoology before obtaining a master’s degree in zoology from the University of Michigan through a Barbour scholarship.
Returning to the University of the Philippines, Velasquez continued her academic pursuits and became the first person to receive a PhD in parasitology from the university. Her research focused on the spread of Ascaris eggs and their resistance in the Philippines, a topic that would inform her later work on intestinal parasites.
Throughout her career, Velasquez made significant contributions to the field of parasitology. She discovered 32 new species and a genus of digenetic trematodes, shedding light on the diversity of parasites found in the Philippines. Her 1975 book, Digenetic Trematodes of Philippine Fishes, was the first monograph dedicated to southeast Asian fish parasitology and served as a guide for aquaculture and fisheries management.
Velasquez also conducted research into the life cycles and taxonomy of parasitic worms, including those that are zoonotically important. Her work on the life cycles of heterophyid trematodes and the characteristics of Cestoda expanded our understanding of these parasites and their potential impact on both animal and human health.
In 1968, Velasquez described the parasitic nematode Capillaria philippinensis, which causes intestinal capillariasis in humans. Her discovery led to increased awareness and understanding of this disease, which had previously been misdiagnosed as tuberculosis or cancer. Today, her work on this parasite continues to inform research on the prevention and treatment of intestinal capillariasis.
Velasquez’s contributions to the field of parasitology were widely recognized, and in 1983, she was named a National Scientist of the Philippines. Throughout her career, she was also a visiting professor at the University of Maryland, served as an editor for the Philippine Science Encyclopedia and the Asian Fisheries Science Journal, and was an advisor to the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development.
Carmen Camacho Velasquez was a trailblazer in the field of parasitology, whose work on the taxonomy of Digenea and discovery of the parasitic nematode Capillaria philippinensis continue to impact our understanding of these parasites and their potential impact on human and animal health. Her legacy serves as an inspiration to future generations of scientists, particularly women, who strive to make significant contributions to the field of science.