NOV 15, 2016 10:55 AM PST

Infection with a Protozoan Directly Linked to Colitis

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham
Bacteria have all but hogged the limelight in our recent understanding of microbiomes and how these ecosystems influence our risks for disease. But let’s not forget there’s other types of microorganism that’s also responsible for this balance inside us.

Publishing in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, scientists at the University of Toronto discovered that a common gut protozoan, Tritrichomonas muris, is linked to development of inflammatory colitis in mice. The results underscore “the need for a better understanding of cross-kingdom interactions between host and protozoa within the gastrointestinal tract," said Dana Philpott, one of the study’s senior authors.
 
The team identified the link between T. muris and colitis on a serendipitous whim, while studying T cell–driven colitis. They noticed that mice infected with the T. muris protozoan were more likely to also develop colitis.
 
In relation to human health and disease, ulcerative colitis is one of the two most common forms of inflammatory bowel disease. Unlike Crohn’s disease, which affects the digestive tract, for colitis the inflammation happens in the colon and rectum. Symptoms of colitis include stomach pain or cramps, and diarrhea. And because the inflammation can lead to ulcers in the colon, bleeding from the rectum is also a common indicator.
 
Importantly, inflammation from ulcerative colitis is known to increase the risks of colon cancer. In fact, people who have a history of colitis for 8 or more years are at very high risks for developing the cancer.
 

But how does a protozoan – a eukaryotic organism from the kingdom Protista – influence colitis? Philpott and her team think the inflammation happens because T. muris increases pro-inflammatory T cells and cytokines in the gut of the mice. This environment promotes and even exacerbates the disease. They confirmed the disease-causing properties of the microorganism when its presence in otherwise healthy mice led to an increased T cell response.
 
It’s not the first time that protozoans are linked to diseases. For example, leishmaniasis and malaria are diseases caused by common protozoans. In all of the cases, researchers underscore the complex relationship that animals’ guts have with their microbe counterparts.

Additional sources: Rockefeller University Press via EurekAlert!
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
MAR 29, 2020
Cancer
MAR 29, 2020
MicroRNA as a New Way to Test for Lung Cancer
The most common, and most deadly, cancer across the world is lung cancer. If caught early, lung cancer has quite a low m ...
APR 04, 2020
Cancer
APR 04, 2020
Unique Cancer Mutation Hijacks Nearby Signaling Pathway
  In cancer, tyrosine kinase mutations are quite common. MET is one such example that normally binds its native lig ...
APR 14, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
APR 14, 2020
How Deer Antlers Can Teach Us About Cancer Treatment
Deer antlers grow faster than cancerous tumors.
APR 25, 2020
Cancer
APR 25, 2020
Breaking the Blood-Brain Barrier in the Fight Against Brain Cancer
One of the more unique aspects of the human body is the blood-brain barrier (BBB) that protects the central nervous syst ...
MAY 09, 2020
Cancer
MAY 09, 2020
Disney movies boost quality of life during chemo
Have you considered popping in a Disney movie during your next chemotherapy session? A study published recently in JAMA ...
MAY 12, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
MAY 12, 2020
Novel Drug Approved for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a therapeutic for treating metastatic non-small cell lung ca ...
Loading Comments...