• Question: what is the chances of a type of parasite mutating into becoming a super parasite

    Asked by 795spar22 to Mark, Linda, Arporn Koi, Franco, Claire on 11 Jul 2016.
    • Photo: Franco Falcone

      Franco Falcone answered on 11 Jul 2016:

      @795spar22 Parasites have larger and more complex genomes than viruses or even bacteria, so it is more difficult for them to mutate into ‘superparasites’, like flu viruses or multi-drug resistant bacteria. Development of resistance to drugs is usually much slower in large parasites, but can happen quite rapidly in protozoan parasites such as the parasites that cause malaria. So while resistance to drugs is of some concern to parasitologists, it is I think a much more pressing issue for microbiologists who study bacterial resistance, or virologists who study resistance of viruses to drugs (e.g. HIV) . But I may be wrong!

    • Photo: Arporn Koi Wangwiwatsin

      Arporn Koi Wangwiwatsin answered on 11 Jul 2016:

      Hi 759,

      That also depends on how much evolutionary pressure are pushing on the parasites. e.g. are there excessive and unnecessary use of drugs against them? Or how the potentially-super-parasites can survive better in their environment. Mutation can happen all the time, and it’s a random chance that some of those mutation will introduce resistance to drug, or introduce something else that might make them become a super parasite. However, if there are no evolution pressure acting on them, then the chance that those mutations will become fixed, I would say, is as much as the chance that they will not.