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 Gene switch may repair DNA and prevent cancer
12.02.2016 | Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences at Kyoto University

nachricht New method opens crystal clear views of biomolecules
11.02.2016 | Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Production of an AIDS vaccine in algae

Today, plants and microorganisms are heavily used for the production of medicinal products. The production of biopharmaceuticals in plants, also referred to as “Molecular Pharming”, represents a continuously growing field of plant biotechnology. Preferred host organisms include yeast and crop plants, such as maize and potato – plants with high demands. With the help of a special algal strain, the research team of Prof. Ralph Bock at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam strives to develop a more efficient and resource-saving system for the production of medicines and vaccines. They tested its practicality by synthesizing a component of a potential AIDS vaccine.

The use of plants and microorganisms to produce pharmaceuticals is nothing new. In 1982, bacteria were genetically modified to produce human insulin, a drug...

Im Focus: The most accurate optical single-ion clock worldwide

Atomic clock experts from the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) are the first research group in the world to have built an optical single-ion clock which attains an accuracy which had only been predicted theoretically so far. Their optical ytterbium clock achieved a relative systematic measurement uncertainty of 3 E-18. The results have been published in the current issue of the scientific journal "Physical Review Letters".

Atomic clock experts from the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) are the first research group in the world to have built an optical single-ion clock...

Im Focus: Goodbye ground control: autonomous nanosatellites

The University of Würzburg has two new space projects in the pipeline which are concerned with the observation of planets and autonomous fault correction aboard satellites. The German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy funds the projects with around 1.6 million euros.

Detecting tornadoes that sweep across Mars. Discovering meteors that fall to Earth. Investigating strange lightning that flashes from Earth's atmosphere into...

Im Focus: Flow phenomena on solid surfaces: Physicists highlight key role played by boundary layer velocity

Physicists from Saarland University and the ESPCI in Paris have shown how liquids on solid surfaces can be made to slide over the surface a bit like a bobsleigh on ice. The key is to apply a coating at the boundary between the liquid and the surface that induces the liquid to slip. This results in an increase in the average flow velocity of the liquid and its throughput. This was demonstrated by studying the behaviour of droplets on surfaces with different coatings as they evolved into the equilibrium state. The results could prove useful in optimizing industrial processes, such as the extrusion of plastics.

The study has been published in the respected academic journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America).

Im Focus: New study: How stable is the West Antarctic Ice Sheet?

Exceeding critical temperature limits in the Southern Ocean may cause the collapse of ice sheets and a sharp rise in sea levels

A future warming of the Southern Ocean caused by rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere may severely disrupt the stability of the West...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Symposium on Climate Change Adaptation in Africa 2016

12.02.2016 | Event News

Travel grants available: Meet the world’s most proficient mathematicians and computer scientists

09.02.2016 | Event News

AKL’16: Experience Laser Technology Live in Europe´s Largest Laser Application Center!

02.02.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

LIGO confirms RIT's breakthrough prediction of gravitational waves

12.02.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Gene switch may repair DNA and prevent cancer

12.02.2016 | Life Sciences

Using 'Pacemakers' in spinal cord injuries

12.02.2016 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>