Home Gut Health A parasite infection can change and control your microbiome

A parasite infection can change and control your microbiome

Parasite, microbiome, Maryland Medical School, Human Microbiome Project 2012, stomach, gut, UTI, E coli, bacteria, colorectal cancer, University of Pennsylvania, Cameroon, Ascaris lumbricoides, Necator americanus, Trichuris trichiura, Strongyloides stercoralis, Penn, Meagan Rubel, California, San Diego,
A parasite infection can change and control your microbiome

Researchers have now shown that a parasitic infection is linked to a completely different microbiome profile, so much so that a microbiome profile can even identify the presence of a parasite.

Maryland Medical School in the Human Microbiome Project 2012 showed that a parasite infection could come back to haunt you 20 years or more later if you didn’t actually kill it at the time.

Do you remember that dose of food poisoning you had on holiday years ago; or was it the upset stomach at the restaurant in town? Researchers have shown that there are millions more genes belonging to inhabitants of your gut than previously thought (1).

You have approximately 90 trillion organisms in your gut. To develop a UTI, research (2) has shown that E coli will increase out of control to represent more than 1% of gut members. But food poisoning might mean you have 1.5 – 2 trillion microbes for a day or two.

The bug passed in the end anyway, didn’t it, and you got better? Well, actually no.

You may have just 50,000 microbes remaining in your gut even today, 20 or 30 years later.

Worse, the weight of microbes in the first 24 hours can knock out beneficial bacteria strains FOREVER. Yes, some become extinct. And research (3) shows that some of those good bacteria regulated others like E.coli, which then slowly grow over the next 10 to 15 years making Crohn’s and even colorectal cancer more likely.

In the past, we had to piece together the above picture from various sources. Now there is clear research (4) on this subject from the University of Pennsylvania. Researchers studied 575 people with differing lifestyles from 9 villages in the Cameroon. 40% were even found to have multiple parasitic infections from four soil-transmitted gut parasites – Ascaris lumbricoides, Necator americanus, Trichuris trichiura, and Strongyloides stercoralis, which were dubbed ‘ANTS’.

In the laboratory at Penn, the researchers then used genomic sequencing on the stools of the 575 subjects and found that the microbiomes of the people with parasites were so altered that they could predict the presence of a parasite just from the profile of the microbiome, in more than 80% of cases.

Meagan Rubel, who completed her doctorate degree at Penn and is now a postdoc at the University of California, San Diego said that the findings were clear. They believed that the parasite completely changed the microbiome of the host generating a weaker gut diversity and rendering other illnesses more likely. However, it was theoretically possible that people started with a weaker gut and that made parasitic infection more likely. Rubel described parasites as a global health problem and much easier to catch than people realised.

Chris Woollams added, “I remember doing a speech once where both I and a well respected Professor felt that 70% of illness was linked to parasites. Parasites don’t have to be 4 feet long and a third world problem – in Carolina, microscopic parasites arrive in the water supply. How many of us have popped out for a quick meal and been ill the next morning?

There is no doubt in my mind that early antibiotic use, some vaccines, smoking, stress, and poor diet can damage the microbiome making a parasitic infection more likely in your life. And if you don’t treat that infection immediately, you can fall into a downward spiral of ill health. I have had 4 parasites in my life – one from Morocco and three in Thailand – I do a gut purge once a year. It’s silly not to”.

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  1. https://www.medschool.umaryland.edu/news/2017/University-of-Maryland-School-of-Medicine-Researchers-Identify-Millions-of-New-Genes-From-Bacteria-Living-on-and-in-the-Human-Body.html
  2. E coli infection in UTIs come from the gut
  3. Colorectal cancer link to food-poisoning and E.Coli
  4. Genome Biology 21; article 122 (2020)