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Parasitic worms need their intestinal microflora too

Date:
March 14, 2018
Source:
University of Manchester
Summary:
Scientists have cast new light on a little understood group of worm infections, which collectively afflicts 1 in 4 people, mainly children -- in the developing the world.
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Scientists at The University of Manchester have cast new light on a little understood group of worm infections, which collectively afflicts 1 in 4 people, mainly children -- in the developing the world.

According to the Professors Richard Grencis and Ian Roberts, Whipworms -- which bury into the large intestine -- have their own gut flora which live inside their own intestines which they say help the worm to grow and thrive.

Whipworm, gets its name because it resembles a whip and causes the disease known as trichuriasis. Infection develops after ingesting whipworm eggs from the contaminated soil.

The discovery, published in Science Advances, could pave the way for more effective drug treatments for such worms, which cause debilitating and serious symptoms.

New solutions to the problem are urgently needed as whipworms are more difficult to treat than other worm parasites that live in the gut and resistance to treatment is a worrying problem.

According to the team, the bacteria found in the 2 cm long worm's gut are unexpectedly different from the gut in which they live.

They had previously discovered that the parasites' eggs are stimulated to hatch by the host's gut flora.

But now they find that changes to the host's bacteria caused by the infection enhance the worms' survival by reducing the numbers of new whipworm eggs that hatch, so keeping their own numbers down.

That, they say, prevents the build-up of infection, which would otherwise lead to host resistance and removal of the worms by the immune system.

It is most common in people who live in regions with hot, humid climates and in areas with poor hygiene and sanitation but was common across temperate climates across the world in past times.

The parasite can cause diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, anemia and weight loss as well as delayed growth in children.

Professor Grencis said: "Although whipworm causes widespread problems across the developing world, it's an area which needs much more research, hence being categorised as one of the Neglected Tropical Diseases by the World Health Organisation.

"So we're pleased we've been able to make an important step in our understanding of its biology.

"We hope this will pave the way for badly needed new drugs. There's no time to waste, as resistance to the current treatments is becoming a major problem."

Professor Roberts said: "We already know that our intestinal microflora underpins all aspects of our health.

"But we were amazed to find that whipworms have their own distinct microflora -- and that it does the same for them, something we think is unique for these types of parasites.

"This shines a light on the fascinating relationships between the parasites, the host and their intestinal dwelling bacteria.

"But is also shows how the parasite can exploit this relationship to its own ends promoting its own existence.

"Whipworm is particularly difficult to treat with the drugs currently available to doctors, so we hope this study may help identify week links in the parasites' biology to help develop more effective ones."


Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Manchester. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Emily C. White, Ashley Houlden, Allison J. Bancroft, Kelly S. Hayes, Marie Goldrick, Richard K. Grencis, Ian S. Roberts. Manipulation of host and parasite microbiotas: Survival strategies during chronic nematode infection. Science Advances, 2018; 4 (3): eaap7399 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aap7399

Cite This Page:

University of Manchester. "Parasitic worms need their intestinal microflora too." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 March 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180314145027.htm>.
University of Manchester. (2018, March 14). Parasitic worms need their intestinal microflora too. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 28, 2024 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180314145027.htm
University of Manchester. "Parasitic worms need their intestinal microflora too." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180314145027.htm (accessed May 28, 2024).

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