Wednesday, April 25, 2018


Post # 17

Donald A. Windsor

Probiotic bacterial coatings on seeds enable plants to endure stresses, such as drought, and produce better crop yields. Indigo Agriculture is the company that is developing these coatings (1).

Could parasites, especially those that enter hosts’ bodies, naturally carry along their own probiotic bacteria? Probiotics might be the parasites’ way of preparing their hosts for enduring the stresses of their burden. Some parasites may even be able to be probiotics themselves. I have often wondered if parasites actually help their hosts bear the afflictions they cause.

In fact, a parasite has already been reported as being a probiotic. The haemoflagellate, Leishmania mexicana, protects its phlebotomine sand fly vector, Lutzomyia longipalpis, from the pathogenic bacterium, Serratia marcescens (2).

Could probiotics partially explain why some parasite species have intermediate hosts? Perhaps larval stages pickup probiotic bacteria from their intermediate hosts and carry them to their definitive hosts.

Probiotics may even explain host specificity and could offer a way to conserve parasites by providing new hosts.

Other microbes besides bacteria, such as fungi and even viruses, could also be probiotic.

Probiotics might also be useful in the therapy of pathogenic parasites. A probiotic is being tested as a treatment of white-nose syndrome in bats, an often fatal disease caused by a fungus (3).

I suspect that there is a lot more to the involvements of probiotics in ecosystems. I am now investigating.

References cited:

1. Anon. Less pesticide, more bacteria (That’s a good thing). Bloomberg Bussinessweek 2018 April 23; (4566): 25-26.

2. Sant’Anna, Mauricio R.V. ; Diaz-Albiter, Hector ; Aguiar-Martins, Kelsilandia ; Al Salem, Waleed S. ; Cavalcante, Reginaldo R. ; Dillon, Viv M. ; Bates, Paul A. ; Genta, Fernando A. ; Dillon Rod J. Colonisation resistance in the sand fly gut: Leishmania protects Lutzoyia longipalpis from bacterial infection. Parasites & Vectors 2014 July 23; 7: 329-338.

3. Oosthoek, Sharon. Bats to the wall. New Scientist 2018 April 21; 238(3174): 42-43.