Friday, July 31, 2015

This Month in Blastocystis Research (JUL 2015)

This is the holiday version of the 'This Month...' series, and so I thought I'd give you a break from my usual rantings on Blastocystis and instead provide you with some ideas and links to interesting people and resources that could entertain you on your holiday. And where to look if not to social media?

On Twitter, I have come across a few interesting profiles:

Rosemary Drisdelle with the twitter handle @ParasitesAuthor tweets on Blastocystis and many other parasites. She has also has a website, which can be accessed here,  she hosts a blog, and she has written a book that you can read about here.

A colleague of mine, whom I've probably mentioned before, is Dr Bobbi Pritt, who is also on Twitter (@ParasiteGal) and hosts an amazing blog called Creepy, Dreadful, Wonderful Parasites. Here, she weekly posts cases of parasite infections, presented as quizzes. If you're into this, I also recommend visiting a similar site hosted by the CDC.

A recent and appartently popular tweet featuring Dr Pritt was posted by Mayo Clinic (@MayoClinic) yesterday:

If you're interested in the evolution of protists and eukaryotic taxonomy and even enjoy having a bit of vibrant personality added to that, I highly recommend following @Ocelloid, who until recently hosted a blog on Scientific American.

I would also like to recommend following @MicrobiomDigest, @Phylogenomics, @Jopdevrieze @hollybik, just to mention a few if you like to stay updated on research, discussions and hypotheses on gut microbiome structure and function, which is a topic that these guys tweet about every now and then.

If you take an interest in parasitology in general, make sure never to miss out on This Week in Parasitism. I also recommend that you take a look at my Useful Links & Blogrolls, which you'll find in the right side bar (you'd probably need to scroll down a bit). It's been a while since I checked the links, and maybe one or two will not be valid, apologies in advance for that. However, there should be quite a few interesting things there...

A facebook group on Parasites & Parasitology with more than 27,000 members is available here, and there is also a FB community on Blastocystis with more than 1,700 members here.

As I've mentioned before, Brendan Faegre has actually composed a three-movement piece for orchestra on Blastocystis, which can be accessed here. He writes:

The first movement captures the calamity and chaos of millions of one-celled organisms successfully breaching security and going on a joy-ride through my gut, multiplying at a blinding pace and damaging at least 20 feet of my intestines. The second movement reflects the parasitic nature of B. Hominis musically through a continual spreading of the opening motive to new voices; a steady, strength-in-numbers type of proliferation that is eventually joined by the raucous character from the first movement. The final movement is named after the anti-protazoal agent most commonly prescribed to eliminate the B. Hominis from its host, and represents an epic battle of microscopic proportions between Nitazoxanide and the pathogenic, unwelcome guests. Every time this piece is performed, the musical spirits within me are further empowered to fight off the blastocysts and eliminate them for good.

I myself have two Twitter handles, including @Eukaryotes and @Blastocystis, and I post blog posts, conference information, job offers, paper reviews, etc. on Blastocystis, other parasites and gastroenterology to my Facebook page, which is available here.

All of you looking forward to a bit of vacation in August: Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

This Month in Blastocystis Research (JUN 2015)

I started developing this blog more than three years ago. After a bit more than a year, I collected a bunch of the posts, edited them and published them as a book on Amazon. Recently, I logged into my Amazon profile to see how the book was doing, and I was very pleased to notice that there were no less than four reviews of the book, and very positive ones too! Thank you to everyone who read/browsed it.

Blastocystis research is currently a quickly moving field, and I'm please to be able to inform you that one of the most interesting contributions to Blastocystis research coming out from our intstitute has just been published in Fems Microbiology Ecology. The article appearing in this journal was first-authored by PhD student Lee O'Brien Andersen (Statens Serum Institut) and post doc Ida Bonde (Danish Technical University) and describes how Lee and Ida took a retrospective approach to analysing metagenomics data originally generated by the MetaHIT Consortium and published in the often cited paper by Arumugam et al. (2012).

The abstract reads as follows:
Blastocystis is a common single-celled intestinal parasitic genus, comprising several subtypes. Here, we screened data obtained by metagenomic analysis of faecal DNA for Blastocystis by searching for subtype-specific genes in co-abundance gene groups, which are groups of genes that co-vary across a selection of 316 human faecal samples, hence representing genes originating from a single subtype. The 316 faecal samples were from 236 healthy individuals, 13 patients with Crohn's disease (CD), and 67 patients with ulcerative colitis (UC). The prevalence of Blastocystis was 20.3% in the healthy individuals and 14.9% in patients with UC. Meanwhile, Blastocystis was absent in patients with CD. Individuals with intestinal microbiota dominated by Bacteroides were much less prone to having Blastocystis-positive stool (Matthew's correlation coefficient = -0.25, P < 0.0001) than individuals with Ruminococcus- and Prevotella-driven enterotypes. This is the first study to investigate the relationship between Blastocystis and communities of gut bacteria using a metagenomics approach. The study serves as an example of how it is possible to retrospectively investigate microbial eukaryotic communities in the gut using metagenomic datasets targeting the bacterial component of the intestinal microbiome and the interplay between these microbial communities.

As far as we know this is the first study to sift out data on Blastocystis from data originally intended for analysis of bacterial communities only, and in the paper we describe how this was done. We believe that this approach has imminent potential for quickly advancing our knowledge on Blastocystis in a gut ecology context, including knowledge on the role of Blastocystis in terms of impacting/manipulating one or more types of intestinal bacteria.

I have a feeling that this is the first study in a string of similar studies that will soon hit PubMed, and within a year or two, we should be able to with confidence to hypothesise on the relationship between the structure and function on of the gut microbiota and Blastocystis, and–hopefully–other intestinal micro-eukaryotes.

Lastly, it was very interesting to note the article by Paramsothy et al. on donor recruitment for faecal microbiota transplantation (FMT; never heard of this? Watch the video below to learn more), recently appearing in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Disease. The study is interesting because it shows that most FMT donors are seemingly ineligible due to a variety of reasons, including colonisation by intestinal parasites such as Blastocystis... Given emerging data suggesting that Blastocystis is more common in healthy invididuals than in patients with gastrointestinal disease, the question remains whether Blastocystis-positivity should be a limiting factor for stool donation?


Andersen LO, Bonde I, Nielsen HB, Stensvold CR. A retrospective metagenomics approach to studying Blastocystis. Published online 30 June 2015. DOI:

Paramsothy S, Borody TJ, Lin E, Finlayson S, Walsh AJ, Samuel D, van den Bogaerde J, Leong RW, Connor S, Ng W, Mitchell HM, Kaakoush N, & Kamm MA (2015). Donor Recruitment for Fecal Microbiota Transplantation. Inflammatory bowel diseases, 21 (7), 1600-6 PMID: 26070003