BIOTIC INTERACTIONS – SPIRITUALISM VS PARASITISM
In this conversation, I am using the term ‘Spiritual’ to define it as a biological function that can be understood by observing interactions among members of a biological or biotic community.
Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine 2015 is won by three scientists, Dr. William C. Campbell of United States, Dr. Satoshi Omura of Japan, and Dr. Youyou Tu of China. This Nobel Award recognizes importance of problems posed by ‘PARASITISM’. While paying my humble tribute to these three scientists, I would like to share some information on Biotic Interactions.
BIOTIC COMMUNITY AND BIOTIC INTERACTIONS
A biological or biotic community consists of two or more interacting and interdependent populations of living organisms. The life of the community and of all organisms in it requires energy. No species lives in isolation from other species in a biological or biotic community. Two kinds of Biotic Interactions are described; 1. Intraspecific Biotic Interactions between members of the same species, and 2. Interspecific Biotic Interactions between members of two or more different species. Biotic Interactions may involve nutritional benefits, space in which to live, shelter, or protection, transport, or reproductive capability. Biotic Interactions are significant not only because they influence individual species but also because they constitute the principal stabilizing connective linkages among various species contained in a biotic community. Individual members of any given species in a biotic community persist in relative harmony because of Biotic Interactions despite individual gains and losses. As consequence of this web of interactions, the biotic community as a whole persists with all of its members ultimately contributing to its continuation.
HUMAN BODY AS A BIOTIC COMMUNITY
Human body consists of about 100 trillion independent, individual, living cells. Human body carries about ten times(10 times 100 trillion) as many microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract. Man has to be always recognized as a natural host of a diverse biotic community. The microbes that colonize man often perform functions beneficial to the host. Man provides microbes a protected place to live and an environment that is rich in nutrients. This mutual beneficial relationship is always present during the entire course of life after birth.
MUTUALISM, COMMENSALISM, AND PARASITISM
Mutualism or Symbiosis describes Biotic Interactions with mutual advantage to both or all organisms involved. It is living together of two kinds of organisms and such association is of mutual advantage. Commensalism describes Biotic Interactions that involve a close association or union between two kinds of organisms in which one is benefited by the relationship and the other is neither benefited nor harmed. The term ‘Parasite’ is used to describe a plant or animal that lives on or in an organism of another species from which it derives sustenance or protection without benefit to, and usually with harmful effects on the host. Thus Parasitism is a Biotic Interaction in which the parasite is benefited and the host is usually harmed with serious consequences. There are numerous parasites that contribute to human pain, misery, and suffering. Onchocerciasis is a fly transmitted tropical disease in which parasitic filarial worms(Genus. Onchocerca) cause tumors, skin lesions, and blindness(River Blindness). Lymphatic Filariasis is caused by another genus of roundworm or nematode. Malaria is an infectious disease, generally intermittent and recurrent, caused by Protozoans(Genus. Plasmodium) that are parasitic in human Red Blood Cells and are transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito, especially the female Anopheles. Malaria is characterized by severe chills and fever. Plasmodium parasite is a formidable enemy to man’s existence. A medical historian described the proboscis of female Anopheline Mosquito, “Down this tiny tube crept the microscopic poison which swept away two of the mightiest empires the world has ever seen.”
SPIRITUAL BIOTIC INTERACTIONS
The term ‘Spiritual’ describes the nature of relationship, partnership, association, bonding, connection, or Biotic Interaction between two living entities based upon characteristics such as compassion, kindness, sympathy, cooperation, voluntary assistance, mutual tolerance, voluntary subservience, functional subordination, or ‘altruism’ to provide some benefit to another member participating in the Biotic Interaction. For example, if man is viewed as a biological community of trillions of individual, independent, living cells, the person recognized as man exists because of ‘spiritual’ nature of interactions between Red Blood Cells and all other cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems of his human body.
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Work that won Nobel Prize for medicine 2015
By Michelle Roberts Health editor, BBC News online
5 October 2015
Image copyright Science Photo Library Image caption People with swollen legs due to severe lymphatic filariasis
The Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine has been split two ways for groundbreaking work on parasitic diseases.
The research, by William C Campbell, Satoshi Omura and Youyou Tu, has led to drugs to treat diseases affecting more than 3.4 billion people around the world.
One of them, malaria, most people have heard of. But the other two illnesses, onchocerciasis or “river blindness” and lymphatic filariasis or “elephantiasis” – both caused by roundworm parasites – are lesser known.
Image copyright Science Photo Library Image caption Blindness occurs as an allergic reaction when the worms die in or near tissues of the eye
People catch these worms from bites from infected insects such as flies or mosquitoes.
Left untreated, the worms grow and multiply, causing disabling symptoms in their host.
The drug Ivermectin kills the first larval stage of the parasite – the babies of adult female worms.
Image copyright SPL Image caption Feeding flies spread the parasite
William C Campbell discovered this by studying bacteria living in soil samples obtained by Satoshi Omura from a Japanese golf course in Ito City, in the Shizuoka region.
One particular strain of bacterium, Streptomyces avermitilis, caught his eye because of its potent anti-parasitic properties.
Working with drug company Merck and Co, he then set about purifying this agent.
Since 1987, Merk (MSD) has given ivermectin away free to those countries that need it most.
Image copyright SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY Image caption Drugs can cure early infection, but advanced disease is harder to treat
Last year, it donated more than 300 million doses to treat river blindness and elephantiasis.
Meanwhile, Chinese scientist Youyou Tu had been focusing her attentions in the 1960s and 70s on finding a new treatment for malaria.
The staples quinine and chloroquine were failing because the parasite that causes malaria – Plasmodium falciparum – had learned how to evade their attack.
Disheartened by the lack of effective drugs to tackle this mosquito-borne disease, the professor turned to traditional medicine to hunt for a new option.
She found that an extract from the sweet wormwood plant Artemisia annual was sometimes effective – but the results were inconsistent, so she went back to ancient literature, including a recipe from AD350.
This ancient document – Ge Hong’s A Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies – recommended a handful of qinghao [the Chinese name for the plant extract] immersed in two litres of water, “wring out the juice and drink it all”.
Image copyright AFP/GETTY
This she did (with a few tweaks), testing it on herself as well as animals in her lab.
She said: “During the Cultural Revolution, there were no practical ways to perform clinical trials of new drugs. So, in order to help patients with malaria, my colleagues and I bravely volunteered to be the first people to take the extract.
“After ascertaining that the extract was safe for human consumption, we went to the Hainan province to test its clinical efficacy, carrying out antimalarial trials with patients,” she wrote in Nature Medicine.
Her discovery eventually led to the creation of an antimalarial drug – artemisinin – that is still relied upon today.
The World Health Organization credits the expanding access to artemisinin-based combination therapies in malaria-endemic countries as a key factor in driving down deaths in recent years.
In 2013, 392 million ACT treatment courses were procured by endemic countries – up from 11 million in 2005.
But artemisinin-resistant strains of malaria are emerging.
As of February 2015, artemisinin resistance had been confirmed in five countries:
Cambodia Laos Myanmar, also known as Burma, Thailand, and Vietnam. And so the quest for new drugs continues.
Copyright © 2015 BBC.