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/
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.