Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Parasite Brain Manipulation

There's a cool book called "This is Your Brain on Parasites" that I never really finished reading. BUT today in class when we talked about the life cycle of that malaria causing organism, and how it has to move from the gut to the salivary gland of the mosquito, it reminded me of a story in the beginning of this book.  In this account, it describes how a trematode needs to first be in an ant and then in a sheep to mature, and how the trematode will basically take control of the ant's brain to make this happen. Unfortunately, I can't share the whole book, but I found an interview with the author, Kathleen McAuliffe, where she briefly describes this idea:

"Trematode are basically a parasitic worm, but they have three hosts often, or two hosts, different species, and there's a very interesting case of a trematode that when it gets into an ant's brain it instructs the ant to leave its colony at night and climb to the top of a blade of grass, lock on to it, and just hang there overnight. If nothing happens, it goes back down to the colony the next day and he returns the next evening and he will do that again and again until a sheep comes by and happens to eat that blade of grass with the ant attached, and when that happens the parasite gets into the sheep, specifically into its bile duct, which is exactly where it wants to be because that's the only place it can reproduce."

You can check out the rest of the interview here. And though I didn't finish the book, I would recommend it!

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