Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Parasites in humans influence each other via shared food sources

12.03.2014

Humans are often infected by parasites, sometimes even several species at a time. Such co-infections are more difficult to treat if the parasites interact with each other. An ecologist from the University of Zurich and his international team have compiled a list of the numerous possibilities as to how parasites can interact: They are most likely to do so indirectly via the food source they share.

Over 1,400 species of parasites – viruses, bacteria, fungi, intestinal worms and protozoa – are able to infect humans. In most cases, the right medicine against a parasite cures the patient.

If he or she suffers from an infection by two or more species of parasite at the same time, however, it soon be-comes more difficult to diagnose and treat. Medication can even exacerbate the medical condition if one pathogen is killed off but the second flourishes. One reason is the little-understood interactions between the parasites that reside in the same host. 

In a study published in Proceedings of Royal Society B, an international team of researchers including Professor Owen Petchey from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies at the University of Zurich presents a network that explains how different pathogens and parasite groups mutually influence each other in the human body.

Surprisingly, the biologists discovered that the par-asites are most likely to interact via the food source they share – not the immune response or directly through contact with other parasites. 

Complex overview with clear patterns

Co-infections are very common: Simultaneous infestations by different intestinal worms, for instance, affect around 800 million people worldwide. In order to develop effective treatment approaches for co-infections, says Owen Petchey, we need to understand the structures of the parasite communities in a host – in this case individual humans – and the interactions between the parasites better.

The ecolthen analyzed over 2,900 combinations of all these factors in an unprecedented manner.

The network displays clear patterns: The infected part of the body and the same food resource are the most common contact points that can lead to an interaction between the different parasites. “We found twice as many parasites fighting for the same energy source as parasites that elicit the same immune response and are able to interact in that way,” explains Petchey.

The manner in which the immune system responds to the individual pathogens seems to be of secondary importance, despite the fact that other studies pointed towards precisely this. The direct influence from one parasite to the next is also rarer, with the exception of HIV, Staphilococcus aureus and the Hepatitis C virus, which are known to interact directly with other pathogens.

Personalized medicine in the spotlight

The network-like overview of the various interactions of parasites that can harm humans goes beyond the usual consideration of parasite pairs. “These results can serve as a basis for the development of new, personalized treatment schemes for infected patients,” Petchey hopes. The biologist is currently testing his hypotheses of this synthesis study with different organisms.

Literature:
Emily C. Griffiths, Amy B. Pedersen, Andy Fenton and Owen L. Petchey. Analysis of a summary net-work of co-infection in humans reveals that parasites interact most via shared resources. Proceedings of Royal Society B, March 12, 2014. Doi: 10.1098/rspb.2013.2286

Contact:
Prof. Owen Petchey
Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies

University of Zurich

Tel. +41 44 635 47 70
Email: owen.petchey@ieu.uzh.ch

Bettina Jakob
Media Relations
University of Zurich
Tel. +41 44 634 44 39
Email: bettina.jakob@kommunikation.uzh.ch

Bettina Jakob | Universität Zürich
Further information:
http://www.uzh.ch/

Further reports about: Analysis Biology Contact Environmental Evolutionary Fenton Hepatitis Simultaneous clear common fungi pathogens species

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Newly designed molecule binds nitrogen
23.02.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Atomic Design by Water
23.02.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>