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Eating well could help spread disease, water flea study suggests

Date:
February 26, 2013
Source:
Eating well could help spread disease
Summary:
Plentiful food can accelerate the spread of infections, scientists have shown in a study of water fleas. Scientists studying bacterial infections in tiny water fleas have discovered that increasing their supply of food can speed up the spread of infection.

Microscopic image of water flea (Daphnia).
Credit: iStockphoto

Plentiful food can accelerate the spread of infections, Edinburgh scientists have shown in a study of water fleas.

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Scientists studying bacterial infections in tiny water fleas have discovered that increasing their supply of food can speed up the spread of infection. They carried out the study to better understand factors that affect how diseases are transmitted.

Researchers found that when a population of parasite-infected water fleas was well-fed, some of them became highly contagious, compared with when food was limited.

Epidemic spread

"If we have an idea of which individuals transmit a lot of disease, we will be better able to stop its spread," said Dr Pedro Vale, School of Biological Sciences.

Scientists say the discovery highlights that, under certain conditions, some individuals may be more prone to spreading disease than others.

Their findings could help inform ways to monitor and control the spread of infections, such as epidemics, in large populations.

Some well-fed water fleas were more infectious than others because they were able to survive for longer with the parasite, giving it more time to multiply.

Parasite growth

Scientists at the University studied the impact of food quantity on the spread of a bacteria parasite that grows in the water flea gut, releasing infectious spores when the water flea dies.

Among those water fleas that were well-fed, some were found to be carrying many more parasites than others, and so were more prone to spreading the disease.

The study, published in Biology Letters, was supported by the Wellcome Trust and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France.

"We know that contact between individuals is important; but now we know that, for some animals at least, nutrition may also play an important role in the spread of disease," said Vale.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Eating well could help spread disease. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. P. F. Vale, M. Choisy, T. J. Little. Host nutrition alters the variance in parasite transmission potential. Biology Letters, 2013; 9 (2): 20121145 DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2012.1145

Cite This Page:

Eating well could help spread disease. "Eating well could help spread disease, water flea study suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 February 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130226120551.htm>.
Eating well could help spread disease. (2013, February 26). Eating well could help spread disease, water flea study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130226120551.htm
Eating well could help spread disease. "Eating well could help spread disease, water flea study suggests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130226120551.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

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