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 Cardiolinc™: an NPO to personalize treatment for cardiovascular disease patients
14.12.2017 | Luxembourg Institute of Health

nachricht How the kidneys produce concentrated urine
14.12.2017 | Max-Delbrück-Centrum für Molekulare Medizin in der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A whole-body approach to understanding chemosensory cells

13.12.2017 | Health and Medicine

Water without windows: Capturing water vapor inside an electron microscope

13.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Cellular Self-Digestion Process Triggers Autoimmune Disease

13.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>