Scientists from Ireland have found out how parasites can survive in the human body even without oxygen. This will help you come up with new treatments for them.
About a billion people on Earth are infected with helminths – round parasites that live in the soil and enter the human body through dirty water. Helminths are known for their ability to survive in the low oxygen environment of the human intestine. Scientists from the Donnelly Center for Research in Cells and Biomolecules attributed this phenomenon to a unique enzyme found in the body of parasites.
It turned out that, unlike most animals, parasites produce energy differently. For example, a person does this through aerobic metabolism – with the help of a molecule called ubidecarenone, or coenzyme Q. But when the helminths enter the host’s body, they switch to anaerobic metabolism, which uses the rhodoquinone molecule.
The researchers even found a switch between these modes. For example, C. elegans worms can tell if there is enough oxygen around them to use one or the other molecule. Despite the fact that C. elegans is not a parasite, it is a close relative of helminths. Scientists have found that some worms have lost this ability during development as unnecessary.
This discovery will help treat people from the effects of parasites without affecting the human body. In this case, researchers will search for and infect an enzyme that helps worms survive in an oxygen-free environment.
The results will help to come up with new treatments in conditions where parasites become resistant to already known drugs. Infections are widespread in less developed countries, where exposure to parasites can have long-term consequences for a child’s development.