How parasites react to the mouse immune system may help to shape their control

Oct 19, 2010

How parasites use different life-history strategies to beat our immune systems may also provide insight into the control of diseases, such as elephantiasis and river blindness, which afflict some of the world's poorest communities in tropical South-East Asia, Africa and Central America. The research is due to be published next week in the online, open-access journal PLoS Biology.

The study, led by Dr Simon Babayan of the University of Edinburgh, showed using a of parasite infection (for diseases such as elephantiasis) that when the parasitic worms enter the body, they are potentially able to adjust their survival strategy relative to the strength of the host's immune system. When the immune reaction is strong, the parasites accelerate their growth rate to produce offspring earlier and in greater numbers, ensuring the continued spread of the disease. The authors note that additional work will be required to confirm whether such a response is adaptive and to tease out the mechanisms involved.

, which causes swelling of the legs, and , are both caused by spread by black flies and mosquitoes. No vaccines for these conditions currently exist. Those affected can be left disfigured, vulnerable to illness, and unable to work, thus putting economic strain on affected societies.

The Edinburgh team will contribute their latest findings into an international project to create a vaccine that, when complimented by drug treatments, could help to eliminate these diseases.

Dr Babayan said: "Most vaccines mimic the natural immunity of people, but our research suggests this approach could be counterproductive for some parasitic diseases. We hope this latest finding will help inform the design of future vaccines against these infections Clinical trials analyse the impact of potential vaccines on host health; we suggest they should also focus on their impact on parasite life history."

Explore further: Transparent larvae hide opaque eyes behind reflections

More information: Babayan SA, Read AF, Lawrence RA, Bain O, Allen JE (2010) Filarial Parasites Develop Faster and Reproduce Earlier in Response to Host Immune Effectors That Determine Filarial Life Expectancy. PLoS Biol 8(10): e1000525. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000525

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Worms to help in medical research

Nov 07, 2005

Scientists at Edinburgh University in Scotland say the parasite called helminth could help find new treatments for conditions like asthma and hay fever.

Recommended for you

Transparent larvae hide opaque eyes behind reflections

2 hours ago

Becoming invisible is probably the ultimate form of camouflage: you don't just blend in, the background shows through you. And this strategy is not as uncommon as you might think. Kathryn Feller, from the University of Maryland ...

Peacock's train is not such a drag

4 hours ago

The magnificent plumage of the peacock may not be quite the sacrifice to love that it appears to be, University of Leeds researchers have discovered.

Spy on penguin families for science

11 hours ago

Penguin Watch, which launches on 17 September 2014, is a project led by Oxford University scientists that gives citizen scientists access to around 200,000 images of penguins taken by remote cameras monitoring ...

User comments : 0