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A fight between gut parasites means a win for people

Worms and Giardia can antagonize each other in the human intestinal tract

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7:19pm, August 27, 2013

Giardia lamblia, a protozoan parasite, infects people who drink contaminated water. Researchers have found that infection with parasitic worms decreases a person's odds of being infected with G. lamblia.

Parasitic worms may have their perks. For indigenous people at the Amazon’s southern edge, infection with the slithering gut hitchhikers may protect against other parasites, a new study shows.

The finding calls into question whether parasitic infections should always receive treatment. “By treating one thing, we may increase susceptibility to something else,” says anthropologist Aaron Blackwell of the University of California, Santa Barbara, who led the study.

While interactions between worms and other parasites have been studied in animals, this is the first large-scale study in humans, says Maria Yazdanbakhsh, an immunologist from Leiden University in the Netherlands.

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