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This article is part of the supplement: Proceedings of the Joint Environment and Human Health Programme: Annual Science Day Conference and Workshop

Open Access Research

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

Lizeth Lacharme-Lora12*, Vyv Salisbury1, Tom J Humphrey3, Kathryn Stafford3 and Sarah E Perkins24

Author Affiliations

1 School of Life Sciences, University of the West of England, Frenchay Campus, Bristol, BS16 1QY, UK

2 Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics, Penn State University, Pennsylvania, PA 16802, USA

3 Department of Clinical Veterinary Science, University of Bristol, Langford, BS40 5DU, Bristol, UK

4 Cardiff School of Biosciences, Biomedical Sciences Building, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX

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Environmental Health 2009, 8(Suppl 1):S17  doi:10.1186/1476-069X-8-S1-S17

Published: 21 December 2009

Abstract

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.