Parasites are mean, but in many cases our body is fully equipped in order to fight them and ultimately destroy them. Here’s an overview of how it works.
Parasites are mean, but in many cases our body is fully equipped in order to fight them and ultimately destroy them. Here’s an overview of how it works.
Parasites are a lot of prevalent than we expect. Affecting travellers and non-travellers alike, they could rob us of energy and harm our biological process functions.
Parasites occur not solely in developing countries or in people who have traveled extensively. 85 % of North Americans have a minimum of one kind of parasite and authorities believe that the accurate figure could also be as high as 95%. This implies nobody is totally immune from parasitic infestation.
What precisely constitutes a parasite? A parasite is outlined as any organism that can live on, or inside the body of another organism. In humans, parasites can prey on our cells, the food we eat, and even on the supplements we tend to take. They vary in size from microscopic noncellular organisms to tapeworms that may be up to twelve metres long. No matter the size of the parasite, all could cause harm to the human body.
Typical Symptoms and Possible Sources
Parasites typically mimic different disorders or yield no noticeable symptoms in any respect. once they do cause symptoms, a large range could be displayed. the foremost common symptoms include:
Parasites could have an effect on tissue anywhere in the body. several disorders are related to them, including arthritis, appendicitis, weight issues, cancer, and epilepsy. Parasites could enter the blood, so that they are able to travel to any organ in the body. This could cause issues that are usually unrecognized as parasite-related and might lead to an incorrect diagnosis. Parasites cause harm not only once they prey on our cells, but also after they discharge their waste in our bodies. This waste then poisons the body and weakens the immune system.
Parasites will enter the body through the mouth, the nose, or be absorbed through the skin. they’ll even be transmitted via insect carriers. Because exposure to those carriers may also cause a condition referred to as candida (an overgrowth of yeast within the enteric tract), candida and parasites usually tend to appear with each other.
Parasites can survive in a non-healthy internal environment. For our intestinal tract and colon to remain healthy, there should be a balance of “bad” and “good” bacteria. Once the optimal quantitative relation (80:20) is disrupted, the intestinal setting becomes prone to parasite infestation. Factors that contribute the imbalance vary from chemicals such as antibiotics, steroids and others, to a diet too high in refined carbohydrates.
So the question now is, how could we get rid of parasites and what can we do to stay safe? Our first recommendation is to always take care on what you eat. Another thing you can do is to take the right precautions when traveling to a destination that is known of “hosting” specific types of parasites. Lastly, ensure that you boost your immune system by having a balanced and nutritious diet!
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Swimming pools usually contain several infectious parasites that utilize water to transfer to new hosts. Albeit attempts to disinfect and clean out swimming pools, several parasites might still lurk inside the water, posing several health hazards to humans.
Majority of the parasites found in swimming pools but also in health spas and pools derive from gastrointestinal tracts and then arrive by fecal contamination. The parasites could also be washed off from a dirty anus. These small, single-cell parasites known as Cryptosporidium and Giardia are the major cause of swimming pool-related gastroenteritis and since they are resistant to chlorine, they are particularly suited to waterborne transmission.
Sadly, illness-inducing micro-organisms usually use water to move onto new hosts. In addition to this, most waterborne outbreaks are not properly identified.
Less than 10% of contaminated people visit their doctor and most of them don’t submit their samples for carrying out a lab testing.
Furthermore, most of these organisms are difficult to detect in water since they might have disappeared by the time the investigation is carried out.
A tiny amount of contaminated fecal could be just enough to infect a handful of swimmers. These parasites could cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, dehydration, fever, nausea and even vomiting.
Some other types of virus and bacteria including E. coli could also harm the body. Luckily, proper chlorination is the best way and relatively cheap method to kill these bacterial and parasites.
By default, chlorine is an irritant, which is why pool administrators should limit the amount of chlorine they put in the swimming pools. On the other hand, a strong smell of chlorine is most probably not good, since the strong odor is due to chloramines.
Chloramines are usually a by-product of a specific chemical reaction between human sweat, urine as well as chlorine and nitrogen. Other agents usually found in swimming pools that could potentialy cause harmful by-products are saliva, skin participants, cosmetics hair and sunscreens.
Researches say that if you can smell the chlorine in the swimming pool, there might be simply too much of it.
Some studies show that a lot of swimming pools have at least one accidental fecal release per week throughout the summer.
On the other hand, hydrotherapy pools might experience such accidents daily…
Latest research shows how climate change and the immune reaction of an infected individual could potentially affect the long-term dynamics of parasitic infections.
The study by Penn State University, measured the infection dynamics of soil-transmitted parasites commonly found in rabbits in Scotland, every month for 23 years. The results of the study could potentially lead to some new strategies for the treatment as well as the prevention of infections from related parasites in humans, wildlife as well as livestock.
“Our research shows that how we target treatment for parasite infections — not only in wildlife like the rabbits we studied, but also in humans and livestock — will depend on how the climate changes and whether or not the host can mount an effective immune response,” mentioned Isabella Cattadori, a professor of biology at Penn State as well as a research scientist.
Earlier work in Cattadori’s lab had demonstrted that infections from one of the parasite species included in the study are driven by an immune response in the rabbits, but on the other hand, infections from the other parasite species are not at all controlled, even though the rabbit has an immune response to the parasite.
“Over the course of 23 years, we saw clear evidence of climate warming at our study site in Scotland. The warmer climate leads to increases in the number of soil-transmitted parasites in the pastures where the rabbits live because the parasites can survive longer in the soil,” Cattadori quoted. “With more parasites, there is an increased risk of infection, but how this increased risk affects the severity of the infection in the long term depends on the ability of the host to mount an immune response.”
For the parasite that is not controlled by the immune response of the rabbit, the researchers had observed that there was an increase in the intensity of infections in adult rabbits with climate warming. “Because they can’t clear the infection with an immune response, the rabbits accumulate more and more parasites as they age so that older individuals carry most of the infection in the population,” Cattadori said.
For the parasite that is controlled by the immune response of the rabbit, the researchers did not notice long-term increase with climate warming in the strength of infections in the rabbit population overall. Nevertheless, the severity of infection increased in younger rabbits that had not yet developed a very strong immune response.
“Our research shows that as climates continue to change, we will need to tailor our treatment of parasite infections based on whether or not the host can mount an effective immune response,” Cattadori mentioned. “When the immune response of the host can’t control the infection that tool place, treatment should be focused at older individuals simply due to the reason that they carry the most severe infections. When a host’s immune response could actually control the infection, treatment should be aimed at younger people because they are at the greatest risk.“More
Intestinal worms have an incredibly bad reputation. The thought of them sneaking around inside our bodies and eating us from the inside is pretty unpleasant. But just 100 years ago, before toilets and running water were commonplace, everybody had regular exposure to intestinal worms. Thanks in part to modern plumbing, people in the industrialized world have now lost almost all of their worms, with the exception of occasional pinworms in some children.
Intestinal worms are properly called “helminths,” which most dictionaries will tell you are parasites. Exploiting their hosts, draining resources, sucking the life out of the body – that’s what parasites do, by definition. Indeed, many helminths, including the porcine tapeworm and the human hookworm, are known to cause disease and even death in the human population. Parasitic worms are still a big problem in some parts of the world.
But for decades, results coming out of lab after lab have shown that some kinds of helminths can be extremely beneficial to their host, and aren’t parasites at all.
These helpful helminths are mutualists, a type of organism that receives benefits from its host, and also provides benefits to the host.
For example, my lab, working with a Duke University colleague, Staci Bilbo, recently showed that the presence of helminths in pregnant rats protects the brains of the rat pups from inflammation. In other words, it seems that mom’s helminths can protect unborn babies. And that is just the tip of the iceberg for what these critters can do.
Worms may help with allergies and multiple sclerosis
Having worms isn’t necessarily bad for you. The largest randomized trial ever performed in human history – involving two million children in India – looked at how helminths affect health in places where humans naturally have them. The study showed that mass treatment with an effective deworming drug did not increase body weight or survival. Shockingly, the helminths didn’t seem to be doing any harm, since getting rid of them didn’t improve health.
So that study seemed to show the absence of harm; could these helminths actively be doing good?
In the past, scientists thought that increases in inflammatory diseases such as hay fever and multiple sclerosis in industrialized societies were due to keeping our created environments too clean. Thus the name “hygiene hypothesis.”
However, the true problem for our health is the loss of biodiversity from our body’s own ecosystem, a condition called “biome depletion.”
Missing mutualistic helminths is a key factor in this, and is apparently a major contributing factor to a very large swath of disease, including allergies and autoimmune conditions.
For instance, helminths have been found to protect laboratory animals from a wide range of allergies and autoimmune conditions. And recent findings suggest that many types of cancer can be reduced by helminths. The idea has been demonstrated by preventing colon cancer in rodents, and it is hoped that it will reduce the burden of cancer in humans by decreasing chronic inflammation, a condition that can give rise to cancer.
In controlled studies in humans, helminths were shown to halt the progression of relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis and effectively treat many individuals with inflammatory bowel disease without report of adverse side effects.
How do worms work with our immune system?
The idea that helminths can help us with a wide range of inflammatory diseases that plague modern society makes a lot of sense when considering the science behind how helminths interact with our immune system.
Helminths have been a part of the ecosystem of the body for so many millions of years that they have become an integral part of that system. Mutualistic helminths help regulate immune function, stimulating our body to build regulatory networks of immune cells that decrease general inflammation without hurting our immune system’s ability to respond to danger. In addition, these helminths produce their own array of anti-inflammatory molecules and give our immune systems much needed exercise, all of which decreases inflammation.
And a recent study showed that the addition of helminths to laboratory rodents dramatically changed the balance of the gut ecosystem, shifting the bacteria in the gut toward a much healthier balance.
With these factors in mind, it would be hard to understand if missing our helminths did not cause health problems.
My laboratory began work a few years ago looking at the sociology of “helminthic therapy,” the use of helminths to treat disease. Working with Janet Wilson, a sociologist at the University of Central Arkansas, we found that thousands of people are using helminths to self-treat a vast array of inflammation-related conditions, from inflammatory bowel disease to hay fever to multiple sclerosis to migraine headaches.
At the moment, there is no helminth approved for medical use by the FDA, and we found that people generally obtain their organisms from one of a few companies that sell expensive and often unregulated products, which can be risky.
Part of our study included a survey of helminth users, and most people filling out the survey reported that helminths treated their inflammatory conditions more effectively and with fewer side effects than did pharmaceuticals.
We also found that some “self-treaters” are the using a helminth called the rat tapeworm (Hymenolepis diminuta), which sounds truly disgusting. However, people are using this helminth because it is inexpensive and easy to produce, and may provide a very effective treatment for a range of inflammation-related diseases, including migraine headaches and depression. People eat them and report that about 30 worms per month does the job, although the number varies depending on the individual.
After being swallowed and passed into the small intestine, the tiny worms almost certainly hatch out of their jelly-like capsule that has protected them since they first hatched from an egg. At that point, they begin to interact with the immune system, reducing inflammation like any other helminth.
But then, with rare exceptions, they vanish mysteriously, never maturing into adults and producing eggs. Because rat tapeworms don’t colonize our intestines the way that some other types of helminths do, an individual needs frequent exposure to have them in their bodies consistently.
The rat tapeworm has been used in the laboratory for decades and blocks experimentally induced colitis in mice more effectively than daily immunosuppression with steroids. In fact, this is the same helminth we use in my lab to protect the developing brains of rat pups from inflammation. But no researchers have ever studied using rat tapeworms on humans to treat disease.
Why aren’t helminths catching on?
While work in labs, and our own research on people self-treating with helminths is promising, the safety and effectiveness of helminths needs to evaluated in more clinical trials. But perhaps the single greatest barrier to the widespread use of helminths as treatment in humans is the availability of an affordable and effective FDA-approved helminth to the medical community.
We have FDA-approved live maggots and leeches, both of which are extremely effective, but we have no effective and safe helminth approved for use.
Perhaps the horrible reputation of helminths has deterred us from taking helminths seriously as a treatment? But we can’t let the ick factor intestinal worms may initially inspire hold us back from further research. Intense and systematic effort needs to be focused on the production of quality helminths. We need to proceed with the domestication of helminths for the benefit of humankind.
There’s a new treatment emerging for malaria, a kind of gene therapy that makes the malaria parasite more susceptible to anti-malaria drugs. It’s the work of a team at Yale University, whose lead researcher, Sidney Altman, is famous as a pioneer in molecular genetics. In 1989, he won the Nobel Prize for his discovery that RNA molecules can function as enzymes, understanding of which changed everything in genetics along with research on the origins of life. Now, Altman’s team at Yale believes it’s possible to alter genetic expression of plasmodium, the malarial parasite, which could amount to a sea change in the war against one of humanity’s worst infectious diseases.
And so, there’s no way that anyone could be against it, right? Well maybe not. After all, it is a kind of gene therapy and gene therapy scares people, especially those who do not like scientists messing with anyone’s genome. Of course they don’t all say “genome”. Typically, the alarmists say “genetic code”. That’s what you find in the most alarmist articles, like this one on the quack website Natural News, where Mike Adams, the same guy who recently blamed Beau Biden’s death on GMOs and chemotherapy, wrote:
I’d like to talk about genetic engineering for a moment, but to preface it with the recognition that we, as a society, are nowhere near the level of maturity and ethics required for manipulating the genetic code. I don’t believe we are ready for genetic engineering, but at some point we may evolve ethically and spiritually to the point where we can more responsibly grasp this potential technology. So even though I’m in favor of exploring genetic engineering in the long run, I am solidly against it today.
It’s almost as if Adams said, “I’m genetically illiterate, but hear me out anyway.” Otherwise, he would know that the Genetic Code is not a target of gene therapy. But that’s okay; the Genetic Literacy Project is all about facilitating literacy about things that people need to know to navigate issues of biotechnology, things like what is a gene, what is DNA, what is RNA, and what is the Genetic Code.
So let’s talk about why “Genetic Code” is capitalized when used correctly, yet is not capitalized when used by those who don’t know what they’re talking about. The Genetic Code is the language that all living things on Earth–all cells in the human body and any organisms that make humans sick–use to read genes in order to express them. It’s not the content that varies from species to species and individual to individual. There are genes coding for the Code itself, but those are the genes that do not get changed. All organisms of all species use the same genetic language, but differ in the genetic content that the language is used to express. Thus, for example, the plasmodium parasite, uses the exact same Genetic Code that our cells use.
The Genetic Code has been around for billions of years. It has not evolved much, and it’s needed for genes to work and for gene therapy to work. And so, while initially it may sound as if we’re merely being picky about terminology, it’s actually about understanding the most important concept in genetics. But get ready to hear more from those concerned about gene therapy, especially from alarmists like Adams who fundamentally don’t trust modern medicine, mainstream doctors, and scientists.
The question that comes up now though is whether we have ‘evolved ethically’ enough to commit to defeating malaria, which kills 500,000-800,000 people, mostly children and mostly in third world countries. Now, because of our exponentiating ability to manipulate, not the Genetic Code but genes and gene products within cells, the Yale team has a novel strategy that may be poised to turn the tides against malaria.
Gene therapy for malaria: How it works
Before delving into the therapy, it’s important to talk about what malaria is and why it’s such a problem. Plasmodium is a kind of protozoan, a singled-celled creature whose structure and genetics are very similar to those of our own cells. Several species of plasmodium act as parasites in humans. Victims get infected with plasmodium through a mosquito bite and the organism settles in the liver. There, it matures and reproduces for 3-12 days, depending on the species. During this time the victim has no symptoms and for certain plasmodium species this state can continue for a few years. In most cases, however, new immature forms of the parasite spread out from the liver and infect red blood cells and that’s when the person gets really sick, with a very high fever, chills, fatigue, and a host of other symptoms. Certain drugs can destroy plasmodium parasites, but there’s been growing resistance to the drugs, especially from the worst plasmodium species, called Plasmodium falciparum. Additionally, many of the antimalarial drugs will destroy the parasites in blood cells, but not those remaining in the liver, so the person can get sick again.
In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Altman’s team from Yale demonstrated how to use specially designed strands of RNA called a morpholino oligomers to strike directly at P. falciparum, where the punch can have the greatest effect: the parasite’s gene expression. Before a gene in DNA in the cell nucleus can be translated –using the language of the Genetic Code that is the same in all organisms– into a protein that’s needed to run a specific function in the cell, the gene is first transcribed into what’s called messenger RNA (mRNA).
The mRNA is a kind of intermediate that must travel to a different part of the cell before the genetic message can finally be used. But a specially designed morpholino oligomer can attach to the mRNA, effectively neutralizing it, or it can interfere with how the mRNA is spliced or otherwise processed in order to deliver its message. Thus, while the gene in the nucleus may be switched on so that it’s constantly sending out it’s message, the message cannot be read, so whatever protein was supposed to be manufactured never does get manufactured. It’s kind of like RNA interference that’s being used ever more frequently to design new foods.
Since this all happens inside the cells of the parasite, the morpholino oligomer strategy can potentially be far more effective than any drug, if certain key genes are chosen for blocking. Or, the Yale research suggests, morpholino oligomer can be used to weaken the parasite, such that strains otherwise resistant to antimalarial drugs would become extremely susceptible.
Could there be risks? Of course there could be. To be delivered to plasmodium parasites in red blood cells, liver, and other tissues, morpholino oligomers would have to be sent through the infected patient’s blood and people might worry that they might do something to the patient’s own cells. Well they might, but then again, they are RNA, not DNA. RNA does not last very long before it’s broken down, so there’s no reason to think that a morpholino oligomer should have any permanent effect on a human. Perhaps, they could block expression of a human gene that happens to be very similar to a plasmodium gene. But such an unlikely effect would be very temporary, and all in all the most susceptible entity within the person would be the parasite that the morpholino oligomer is designed specifically to kill. So while there’s a risk, it’s very small, and that must be considered, particularly in context of one of humanity’s worst diseases.
David Warmflash is an astrobiologist, physician and science writer. Follow @CosmicEvolution to read what he is saying on Twitter
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