Molecular Parasitology: the only way forward

Molecular Parasitology: History of human life on earth has been a story of fight between man and his environment; weather, predators and disease being the important rivals.

Molecular Parasitology: the only way forwardEpidemic typhus of 16th century, yellow fever outbreak in 1793 in USA, outbreaks malaria during world war 1 and world war 2 and of bubanic plague commonly known as black death are some incidents in history which engulfed millions of lives. Disease was believed to be caused by some supernatural forces and animal and human sacrifices were made to please them.

However evolution of Germ theory and Koch’s postulates recognised the role of microbes in causing a disease. Further investigations discovered the method of transmission of microbes and role of parasites in their prevalence. Discipline of Parasitology evolved that focused on control measures by studying the life cycle, host-parasite relationship and habitate of parasites.

Chemical methods to control parasites have been in use for many decades and still a number of acaricides, insecticide and antiparasitic drugs are being used in humans and animals. However success is marred by drug residues in end products and side effects on hosts, environment and final consumers of end products.

Moreover, vector borne diseases in human beings like malaria, zika virus infection, crimean-congo haemorrhagic fever and in animals like babesiosis and trypanosomiasis are still a challenge to control. Besides, insects have become resistant after mutation against chemicals due to their continuous use. This scenario paved the way for some alternative methods that might be more safe for hosts, consumers and environment.

Thanks to Alfred Hershey and Martha chase in 1952 for their discovery of DNA as genetic material and laid the foundation of molecular biology. Development of molecular biology techniques like PCR, CLONNING and BLOTTING revolutionised the approach to deal with microbes and application of such techniques in parasitology was the subject matter of molecular parasitology.

One can manipulate and modify parasitic genome to explore its function by using tools of molecular parasitology. It has many success stories to its credit. Vaccine against mosquitoes blocked the transmission of arbovirus. Malaria vaccine is being used around the world with confidence.

Vaccine against cattle tick Boophilus microplushas been tested in Australia. The completion of genome project of most human and animal parasites would ensure rapid progress in understanding their mechanisms of invasion and survival within the host and resultantly help in their control.

But………………..wait a minute.

It seems pretty good to benefit from the research efforts going on in developed countries like USA , Australia. But situation is not so simple. For these achievements to be helpful in other geo-climatic zoones like pakistan, one must know the dynamics of host-vector-environment triangle in that particular area.

One must know the type of organism, species of vector involved and if there is any further subtype of both is present in that particular geo-climatic zoone . This information is of vital importance for any remidial measure to be adopted particularly vaccine preparation.

Unfortunately in pakistan, like all third world countries, very little data is available about host-vector-enviornment interactions identified at molecular level within the geographical boundaries of pakistan.

No doubt that the research work is going on at different levels at different institutions, but it is with limited resources and crawling pace that could not be able to meet the challenges.  More rapid, integrated and result oriented efforts are the need of the hour to win the centuries old contest.

ali butt

ali butt

I am Veterinary Officer in L&DD, Punjab. Currently I am student of M.PHIL. Veterinary Parasitology at University of Agriculture Faisalabad on study leave.

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