Showing posts with label Dante. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dante. Show all posts

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Blastocystis aux Enfers

We tremble at the thought of being devoured by a ferocious animal, - of ending our days in a narrow, suffocating slimy tube covered in acidic, nauseating glaze! Remarkably, for some eukaryotic beings, this is the only way forward if they want to carry on with their lives! Intestinal protists such as Blastocystis are in a state of hibernation when outside our bodies and the only thing that may rouse these Sleeping Beauties to action is the passage through low pH enzyme ponds. They thrive, grow and raise their progeny only in the swampy Tartarus of our large intestines; they bequeath to their offspring the affinity for this gloomy, filthy slew; this murky, densely populated, polluted channel, and when the pool of poo becomes all too arid, they know it’s time to buckle up, shut down, and prepare themselves for the great unknown which can potentially mean death to them if eventually they are not lucky enough to be gulped down by another suitable host.

And yet, despite their remarkable modesty and humble requirements these little buggers are being bullied by their inhospitable human hosts; we’d throw anything at them to force them out, organic and inorganic compounds meant to arrest or even kill them. But the whelps of Blastocystis appear extremely resilient, which may hold the key to part of their success; they stay afloat on the Styx of our bowels. In order to eschew Flagyl, perhaps they bribed Phlegyas?

I think it's sometimes useful to put things into a completely different perspective. In any event, from an evolutionary biology standpoint it is highly interesting that a genus which is genetically related to water molds such as those causing potato blight and sudden oak death, has so successfully adapted to a parasitic, anaerobic life style, capable of protractedly colonising a plethora of very diverse host species including members of primates, other mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and arthropods and thereby evading innate and adaptive immune defenses from such a diverse range of hosts. One could be inclined to say: Well done! But which is it? Parasitism? Commensalism? Mutalism? Symbiosis? And what will happen to Blastocystis in the future? Will this successful crusader eventually succumb to our avid but maybe imprudent war strategies? And if so, what will happen to us after removing such a common player from our intestinal ecosystems?