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Environ Health. 2009 Dec 21;8 Suppl 1:S17. doi: 10.1186/1476-069X-8-S1-S17.

Bacteria isolated from parasitic nematodes--a potential novel vector of pathogens?

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University of the West of England, Bristol, UK.


Bacterial pathogens are ubiquitous in soil and water - concurrently so are free-living helminths that feed on bacteria. These helminths fall into two categories; the non-parasitic and the parasitic. The former have been the focus of previous work, finding that bacterial pathogens inside helminths are conferred survival advantages over and above bacteria alone in the environment, and that accidental ingestion of non-parasitic helminths can cause systemic infection in vertebrate hosts. Here, we determine the potential for bacteria to be associated with parasitic helminths. After culturing helminths from fecal samples obtained from livestock the external bacteria were removed. Two-hundred parasitic helminths from three different species were homogenised and the bacteria that were internal to the helminths were isolated and cultured. Eleven different bacterial isolates were found; of which eight were indentified. The bacteria identified included known human and cattle pathogens. We concluded that bacteria of livestock can be isolated in parasitic helminths and that this suggests a mechanism by which bacteria, pathogenic or otherwise, can be transmitted between individuals. The potential for helminths to play a role as pathogen vectors poses a potential livestock and human health risk. Further work is required to assess the epidemiological impact of this finding.

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