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Thinking more about the CKDu (Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Cause) epidemics in Latin America and India amongst agricultural workers...and possible causes.

I find myself deeply wondering about currently understudied yet important symbionts and beneficial kidney bacteria that may be inadvertantly affected and disabled by increased heat AND environmental toxin exposure (similar to the bleaching of corals by the exodus of symbiotic dinoflagellates which provided them their food).

The Role of Coral Reefs, Photosynthesis, and Predators on the Origin of Parasitism by Patrick J. Keeling,University of British Columbia

Apicomplexans..such as the parasitic Plasmodium Falciparum (which causes malaria), and  Toxiplasma Gondii (T.Gondii) which is estimated to non-fatally infect fully one third of the human population(!?) contain apicoplasts...vestigial nonphotosynthetic chloroplasts...plastids which originated from an alga through secondary endosymbiosis.

Scientists have been trying to target these apicoplasts for new anti-malarial drugs. The Apicoplast is necessary for the survival of the Plasmodium Falciparum "but no one yet is sure exactly what it does". Biosynthesis of lipids?
Please read: LifeScientist: ASM: Plasmodium's newest cousin
Returning to CKDu....(and as referenced in the above LifeScience article) certain herbicides have been proven to kill P. falicparum through disrupting a chloroplast-based shikimate pathway, which synthesises the amino acids tryptophan, phenylalanine and tyrosine...(!)
Think about that, coral reefs and the ecosystems of our own kidneys and their possible symbionts for a long moment.

After processing...My nagging/urgent thought: instead of trying to kill the Plasmodium Falciparum...wouldn't the hugely better Win-Win scenario be somehow figuring out what could coax apicomplexans to engage in mutualistic instead of parasitic behaviors?

Lest you feel this could never happen...:
Some interesting and relevant information on just this sort of surprisingly hopeful Beneficial association of another apicomplexan within the renal sac (akin to the human kidney) of the marine organism called the Sea Grape (Molgula manhattensis).
Malaria, Sea Grapes, and Kidney Stones: A Tale of Parasites Lost
article by Carl Zimmer 2010

"..Mary Beth Saffo has been studying this strange association for 20 years (here’s a 1994 profile in the New York Times), and she thinks it’s an intimate partnership. The sea grapes give Nephromyces a shelter and a never-ending buffet: its kidney stones. In exchange, Nephromyces produces nutritious compounds from the stones that the sea grapes can use. Actually, Saffo suspects, it’s a three-way partnership, because Nephromyces harbors bacteria that helps it break down the stones."

"Saffo is not the first biologist to discover a parasite turned mutualist. But it’s hard to think of another case in which a species has turned its back on such a huge legacy of death and disease. How it made such a massive swing is left for Saffo and others still to figure out. It’s possible that once Nephromyces picked up its bacterial passengers, it could thrive inside sea grapes without making them sick. Perhaps in order to put its old ways behind, a parasite just needs a little help from its friends..."

Reference: Saffo et al, “Nephromyces, a beneficial apicomplexan symbiont in marine animals.” PNAS. http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1002335107

Adding to the discussion, Please read: Could 'Probiotic Epidemics' Influence Evolution? article by Moises Velasquez-Manoff

Why are the kidneys seemingly understudied within the Human Microbiome Project? I'm having trouble finding good information... Help and thoughts appreciated.


Oct. 24th, 2008 10:32 pm
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" If you look long enough at E.Coli's genome, you will come across hundreds of pseudogenes, instructions with catastrophic typographical errors. You will encounter the genes of viruses that respond to stress by making new viruses and killing their host. Other instructions are mysteriously clumsy, redundant, and roundabout. Still others are cases of outright plagiarism.

Where the metaphor of an instruction manual collapses, other metaphors can take its place. My favorite is an old battered book that sits today in a museum in Baltimore. It was created in Constantinople in the tenth century. A Byzantine scribe copied the original Greek text of two treatises by the ancient mathematician Archimedes onto pages of sheepskin. In 1229, a priest named Johannes Myronas dismantled the book. He washed the old Greek text from the pages with juice or milk, removed the wooden boards, and cut the binding strings on the spine. Myronas then used the sheepskin to write a Christian prayer book. This sort of recycled book is known as a palimpsest.

Despite its new incarnation, The Archimedes palimpsest carried traces of the original text. The prayer book was passed from church to church, scorched in a fire, splashed with candle wax, freshened up with new illuminations, and colonized by purple fungus. In 1907, a Danish scholar named Johan Heiburg discovered that the battered prayer book was in fact the only surviving copy of Archimedes' treatises in their original Greek. But with only a magnifying glass to help him, Heilburg could make out very little of the ancient text. A century later conservationists are making more progress. They are illuminating Archimedes' works with beams of X-rays that light up atoms of iron in the original ink, resurrecting a glowing text of Greek. The palimpsest reveals new depths to the genius of Archimedes, who turns out to have been contemplating calculus and infinity and other concepts that would not be rediscovered for centuries.

E.Coli's genome is not so much a manual as a living palimpsest. E.coli K-12, O157-H7, and all the other strains evolved from a common ancestor that lived dozens of millions of years ago. And that common ancestor itself descended from still older microbes, stretching back over billions of years. The genetic history of E.coli is masked by mutations, duplications, deletions and insertions. Yet traces of the older layers of text survive in E.coli's genome, like vestiges of Archimedes.

Until recently, scientists had only crude toools for reading those hidden layers. They struggled like Heiberg with his magnifying glass. They are now getting a much better look at the palimpsest. Like Archimedes' ancient treatise, they're finding, E.coli's genome is a book of wisdom. It offers hints about how life has evolved over billions of years- how complex networks of genes emerge, how evolution can act like an engineer without an engineer's brain. Nested within E.coli's genomes are clues to the earliest stages of life on Earth, including the world before DNA......"

- from Microcosm: E.coli and the new science of life- by Carl Zimmer

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