HomeScience & TechParasitic Microbes Found Altering Host Metabolism for the First Time

Parasitic Microbes Found Altering Host Metabolism for the First Time

In a groundbreaking discovery, researchers have uncovered the presence of parasitic microbes that are literally changing the metabolism of their hosts. The culprits behind this phenomenon are tiny parasitic archaea belonging to the species Candidatus Nanohaloarchaeum antarcticus, which parasitize other single-celled organisms, specifically the host archaeon species Halorubrum lacusprofundi.

Led by marine microbiologist Joshua Hamm from the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), the team found that these parasites exhibit a surprising level of selectivity in the resources they steal from their hosts. Using a new analytical technique developed by microbiologist Su Ding, the researchers were able to analyze lipids in both host-parasite pairs and non-parasitized hosts, revealing that the parasites selectively take only certain compounds for their own use, leaving the rest untouched.

Moreover, the metabolism of the host organism, H. lacusprofundi, showed marked differences between parasitized and non-parasitized individuals. Parasitized microbes experienced a significant depletion in certain lipids taken by Ca. N. antarcticus, but an increase in other lipids, likely as a response to the increased metabolic load generated by the parasite’s presence.

The discovery has profound implications for microbial ecology, shedding light on how parasitic microbes can influence the metabolism of their hosts and potentially alter their responses to external factors such as changing environmental conditions. This understanding could have far-reaching consequences for our comprehension of microbial communities and their stability in the face of environmental changes.

As the researchers continue to delve into the mechanisms behind these interactions, they emphasize the need for further research to fully grasp the extent of the impact that parasitic microbes have on microbial ecosystems and their responses to changing conditions.

The team’s findings, published in Nature Communications, mark a significant advancement in our understanding of microbial dynamics and their intricate interplay within ecosystems.

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