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: Bad reputation of crows demystified

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

Bad reputation of crows demystified

Jan 23, 2015

In literature, crows and ravens arebad omens and are associated with witches. Most people believe they steal, eat other birds' eggs and reduce the populations of other birds. But a new study, which has brought ...

How gerbils orient in the light of the setting sun

Jan 23, 2015

A light brown remains light brown: For gerbils, the fur color of their conspecifics appears identical under different lighting conditions. The ability of color constancy in rodents has been demonstrated for ...

Snack attack: Bears munch on ants and help plants grow

Jan 22, 2015

Tiny ants may seem like an odd food source for black bears, but the protein-packed bugs are a major part of some bears' diets and a crucial part of the food web that not only affects other bugs, but plants too.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.