Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Parasite turns shrimp into voracious cannibals

Yeah I know this isn't a virus, but it's too cool and relates to too many concepts in humans and viruses for me to not write about this. Researchers have found a tiny parasite (Pleistophora mulleri) that not only increased cannibalism among indigenous shrimp Gammarus duebeni celticus but also made infected shrimp more voracious, taking much less time to consume their victims.
This made me think of 2 of our viruses. One Rabies because it induces behavioral changes such as cerebral dysfunction, anxiety, confusion, agitation, and severe hydrophobia. This also reminded me of Kuru as the prion was transmitted via cannibalism of infected human brains.

These infected shrimp became more cannabalistic after being infected and would take a shorter time to eat the shrimps. They also attacked juvenile shrimp more than adult ones. An interesting thing about this is that you can see the parasite taking up space in the muscles. The shrimp are normally transparent to a certain degree. However, infected shrimp had a more chalky appearance because of the parasite packing in the muscles.

Wow, that's crazy. The mechanisms viruses and parasites use to cause behavioral changes is pretty scary.

- Jimmy

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