Medically reviewed by Onikepe Adegbola, MD, PhD
The gastrointestinal system or Human Gut consists of hollow, interconnected organs that make up the gastrointestinal tract and a few accessory organs that play an important role in the digestion of food but are not part of it. Its primary functions are to digest and absorb ingested nutrients and expel digestive waste products. The gut microbiota provides essential functions for fermenting non-digestible substrates such as dietary fibers and endogenous mucus. Fermentation drives the growth of microbes that produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and gasses.
Dr. Deng Lei and his team carried out a study showing that a gut parasite reduces inflammation in the gut and exhibits probiotic properties that keep the gut healthy. This study was published in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences. This study found that the parasite stabilized the ecosystem of bacteria in the gut of laboratory models, as well as promoted quicker recovery from inflammation.
When your gut is infected with bacteria or parasites, you may have inflammation disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. Researchers at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (NUS Medicine) have found that Blastocystis subtype (ST) 4 inhabits the gastrointestinal tract of humans and is associated with beneficial effects on the gut.
Overview Of The “Good Parasite”
There are approximately 100 trillion microorganisms in the human gastrointestinal tract (mostly bacteria, but also viruses, fungi, and protozoa). Only some of them are harmful, but the rest protect your health. The microbiota of the digestive system is vital to the normal functioning of the digestive system, so alterations caused by antibiotics or dietary changes can be harmful.
The parasite was Blastocystis ST4. Humans and various animals contain Blastocystis ST4 parasites in the gastrointestinal tract. This study provides evidence that ST4 colonization is associated with healthy gut microbiota.
Role of Blastocystis ST4
Researchers found that Blastocystis ST4 can increase the certain types of bacteria that produce beneficial molecules. They noticed that this parasite can increase immune cells that reduce inflammation. As a result, they hypothesized that it may be capable of restructuring the gut into a healthy composition of microbes.
The study suggests that the presence of the parasite is linked to the presence of a healthy gut, and the microbe could be used to treat inflammation in humans through probiotics.
According to their study, Blastocystis ST4 is an ecological engineer that helps keep the gut bacteria diverse and versatile to combat any potential diseases.
More research on the influence and mechanism of Blastocystis ST4 can lead to more medical advancement. However, a previous study showed that despite the positive effects of Blastocystis ST4, not all the subtypes of Blastocystis behave alike. Researchers at the School have demonstrated that another subtype is harmful to the gut in an earlier study. For a more comprehensive understanding, there should be a detailed study on each subtype of Blastocystis. To have a better knowledge of the various subtypes of this parasite, further research should investigate their behavior.
Deng, L., Wojciech, L., Png, C. W., Koh, E. Y., Aung, T. T., Kioh, D. Y. Q., Chan, E. C. Y., Malleret, B., Zhang, Y., Peng, G., Gascoigne, N. R. J., & Tan, K. S. W. (2022, April 18). Experimental colonization with Blastocystis ST4 is associated with protective immune responses and modulation of gut microbiome in a DSS-induced colitis mouse model – cellular and molecular life sciences. SpringerLink. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00018-022-04271-9