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What’s Eating You?
03.13.2014 | Mick Kulikowski
It’s a jungle out there.Humans can be infected by more than 1,400 parasites – viruses, bacteria, fungi, etc. It can be bad enough when one nasty parasite takes hold – it’s certainly no fun to be stricken with tuberculosis – but what happens if you have two simultaneous infections? If one infection is diagnosed and treated with a regimen of drugs, will the other infection go away by itself? What if you take the drugs and the other infection gets worse?
“We don’t understand enough about many of these relationships to know if treating one infection can also curb another simultaneous infection – whether it may figuratively kill two birds with one stone – or if treatment of one infection hampers healing of the other,” says Emily Griffiths, an NC State post-doctoral researcher and lead author of a new study examining parasite-human relationships.
Emily Griffiths and colleagues created a “food web” to show how groups of parasites interact in humans.
Griffiths and colleagues from the United Kingdom and Switzerland provide the first glimpse at how multiple parasites interact within humans. Using data from more than 300 published studies, the researchers compiled a list of many of the parasites that infect humans, a list of the parts of the body consumed by each parasite, and the ways the immune system responds to each parasite.
The information was used to construct a large network of multiple infections in humans, a veritable “food web” of infections inside the human body.
Building this network revealed some previously unknown infection patterns and suggests treatment strategies for multiple infections, Griffiths says. For example, groups of parasites often share similar parts of their host, and these groups are prime candidates for coordinated treatment.
Future research aims to understand better how and why multiple infections occur in humans, and the consequences for mortality, Griffiths adds.
A study describing the work was published this week in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Griffiths also studies a particular infection – dengue fever. She is currently working with colleagues at NC State on models for the four different types of dengue fever and the mosquitoes that transmit them.
You know you have a chronic illness when...
- You lost your keys and after searching for two hours you finally find them in the freezer
- Your medication doesn't fit in your medicine cabinet
- Your medical files have to be carried around in a box
- You often hear the phrase "I've never seen anything like this before" when you go to the doctor
- Your doctors' phone numbers are programmed into your phone
- You're on first name terms with your pharmacist
- Every spare penny you have goes to paying off your medical bills
- You find yourself watching Lifetime movies
- You laugh hysterically when someone invites you to participate in a 5k
- Your emotions can go up down so much people think you are bi polar
- You have to ask for help when opening your pill bottles-those child proof caps don't stop children, but they sure stop you
- You have sweat pants in every color of the rainbow
- You know where the elevators are in every building you go to
- When you are used to being told you need a psychiatrist
- When someone asks "what do you do for a living," you just laugh
- You carry around prescription medication in your purse
- You try to explain to your friends and family the "spoon theory."
- You forget how to spell your name and have to ask someone else for help