Roundworm. | Photo Credit: HeitiPaves
Do worms have an immune system? How do they fight infections?
Roundworms (Caenorhabditis elegans) are animals that lack dedicated immune cells. But they are constantly under attack from viruses and fungal parasites called microsporidia.
Researchers from the U.S have now decoded the complex dynamics that are involved in how these organisms sense an infection. The paper published last month (Plos Pathogens) notes worms can sense changes in their metabolism and then unleash protective defenses, even if they don't directly sense the pathogens.
The team studied an important biological pathway in the worms – the purine metabolism pathway. The results suggest that the host has developed ways to sense the theft of purine metabolites. It seems that when these key cellular building blocks are stolen by the pathogen, the host senses this theft to mount an immune response to the pathogen, explains first author Eillen Tecle in a release.
The team adds that studying worms can also shed light on some purine-related compound mutations seen in human diseases. Lead author Emily R. Troemel added in a release that in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's important to study these questions of immunity in lots of different systems to build new tools so that we can learn how to prevent and treat infections.
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