New research published today (15 January) in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Fellow shows that the same community ecology principles that determine how different animal species on the savannah affect each other's population sizes through competition for food and hunting by predators also affect parasite species interacting within the microcosm of a single host.
The research has important implications for treating many human and animal infections, including malaria and viruses. These infections rarely occur singularly and the research at the University of Edinburgh suggests that a range of drugs used to treat infection by parasitic worms may alter the effectiveness of anti-malarial and anti-viral treatments by affecting the level of competition among parasite species.
The research, conducted by Dr Andrea Graham, a BBSRC David Phillips Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, examined data from a large number of animal studies of coinfection. A microparasite infection such as malaria often occurs in people already suffering from other parasites, such as worms. The research shows that these multiple infections affect each other by competing for host nutrients or by generating an impaired immune system response. The effect is the same as if a large herd of wildebeest started to eat all the available food in an area of the Serengeti. Analogously, the study found that if a host was suffering from a worm infection that caused a reduction in a nutrient needed by another parasite in the body at the same time, the second parasite would be reduced in number. Conversely, if a worm infection suppressed the immune response, other parasites would explode in numbers, just as zebras would rapidly breed in the absence of lions.
Dr Graham said: "People and animals do not normally suffer just one parasite infection at a time. By applying the same ideas used in studies of big ecosystems to parasites I have been able to show that we need ecological thinking in order to understand and thus control multiple infections. This approach will help us to most effectively treat diseases such as malaria in a world that's full of co-infected hosts.
"Researchers have mostly studied and treated viral and bacterial infections in isolation. This is because multiple-species infections were previously thought to be far too complex to be understood. Now I've shown that we need to think like ecologists to make the problem more controllable."
Professor Nigel Brown, BBSRC Directory of Science and Technology, said: "This research focuses on understanding the fundamental biology of parasite infections but has huge practical implications. Ecological principles are here shown to have huge potential in understanding and treating parasitic disease, and shows the importance of interdisciplinary thinking in science and medicine."
Matt Goode | alfa
Nanoparticle Exposure Can Awaken Dormant Viruses in the Lungs
16.01.2017 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt
Cholera bacteria infect more effectively with a simple twist of shape
13.01.2017 | Princeton University
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.
The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction