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Plasmodium Species

Members of the genus Plasmodium must colonize both a mosquito and a vertebrate to complete their life cycle. In vertebrates, the parasite develops in liver cells and goes on to infect red blood cells, bursting from and destroying the blood cells with each asexual replication cycle ( [link] ). Of the four Plasmodium species known to infect humans, P . falciparum accounts for 50 percent of all malaria cases and is the primary cause of disease-related fatalities in tropical regions of the world. In 2010, it was estimated that malaria caused between one-half and one million deaths, mostly in African children. During the course of malaria, P . falciparum can infect and destroy more than one-half of a human’s circulating blood cells, leading to severe anemia. In response to waste products released as the parasites burst from infected blood cells, the host immune system mounts a massive inflammatory response with episodes of delirium-inducing fever as parasites lyse red blood cells, spilling parasite waste into the bloodstream. P . falciparum is transmitted to humans by the African malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae . Techniques to kill, sterilize, or avoid exposure to this highly aggressive mosquito species are crucial to malaria control.

The micrograph shows round red blood cells, each about 8 microns across, infected with ring-shaped P falciparum.
Red blood cells are shown to be infected with P . falciparum , the causative agent of malaria. In this light microscopic image taken using a 100× oil immersion lens, the ring-shaped P . falciparum stains purple. (credit: modification of work by Michael Zahniser; scale-bar data from Matt Russell)

This movie depicts the pathogenesis of Plasmodium falciparum , the causative agent of malaria.

Trypanosomes

Trypanosoma brucei , the parasite that is responsible for African sleeping sickness, confounds the human immune system by changing its thick layer of surface glycoproteins with each infectious cycle ( [link] ). The glycoproteins are identified by the immune system as foreign antigens, and a specific antibody defense is mounted against the parasite. However, T . brucei has thousands of possible antigens, and with each subsequent generation, the protist switches to a glycoprotein coating with a different molecular structure. In this way, T . brucei is capable of replicating continuously without the immune system ever succeeding in clearing the parasite. Without treatment, T . brucei attacks red blood cells, causing the patient to lapse into a coma and eventually die. During epidemic periods, mortality from the disease can be high. Greater surveillance and control measures lead to a reduction in reported cases; some of the lowest numbers reported in 50 years (fewer than 10,000 cases in all of sub-Saharan Africa) have happened since 2009.

This movie discusses the pathogenesis of Trypanosoma brucei , the causative agent of African sleeping sickness.

In Latin America, another species, T . cruzi , is responsible for Chagas disease. T . cruzi infections are mainly caused by a blood-sucking bug. The parasite inhabits heart and digestive system tissues in the chronic phase of infection, leading to malnutrition and heart failure due to abnormal heart rhythms. An estimated 10 million people are infected with Chagas disease, and it caused 10,000 deaths in 2008.

The micrograph shows round red blood cells, about 8 microns across. Swimming among the red blood cells are ribbon-like trypanosomes. The trypanosomes are about three times as long as the red blood cells are wide.
Trypanosomes are shown among red blood cells. (credit: modification of work by Dr. Myron G. Shultz; scale-bar data from Matt Russell)

Plant parasites

Protist parasites of terrestrial plants include agents that destroy food crops. The oomycete Plasmopara viticola parasitizes grape plants, causing a disease called downy mildew ( [link] ). Grape plants infected with P . viticola appear stunted and have discolored, withered leaves. The spread of downy mildew nearly collapsed the French wine industry in the nineteenth century.

The photo shows a leaf infected with downy mildew (left) and powdery mildew (right). Where the leaf is infected with downy mildew, it is yellow instead of green. Powdery mildew appears as a white fuzz on the leaf.
Both downy and powdery mildews on this grape leaf are caused by an infection of P . viticola . (credit: modification of work by USDA)

Phytophthora infestans is an oomycete responsible for potato late blight, which causes potato stalks and stems to decay into black slime ( [link] ). Widespread potato blight caused by P . infestans precipitated the well-known Irish potato famine in the nineteenth century that claimed the lives of approximately 1 million people and led to the emigration of at least 1 million more from Ireland. Late blight continues to plague potato crops in certain parts of the United States and Russia, wiping out as much as 70 percent of crops when no pesticides are applied.

The photo shows a slice of potato that has browned and appears rotten.
These unappetizing remnants result from an infection with P . infestans , the causative agent of potato late blight. (credit: USDA)

Agents of decomposition

The fungus-like protist saprobes are specialized to absorb nutrients from nonliving organic matter, such as dead organisms or their wastes. For instance, many types of oomycetes grow on dead animals or algae. Saprobic protists have the essential function of returning inorganic nutrients to the soil and water. This process allows for new plant growth, which in turn generates sustenance for other organisms along the food chain. Indeed, without saprobe species, such as protists, fungi, and bacteria, life would cease to exist as all organic carbon became “tied up” in dead organisms.

Section summary

Protists function at several levels of the ecological food web: as primary producers, as direct food sources, and as decomposers. In addition, many protists are parasites of plants and animals that can cause deadly human diseases or destroy valuable crops.

Questions & Answers

what is parasitic movement
Emmanuel Reply
Parasitic movement is a problem for all of us. So is its companion, parasitic tension. Parasitic movement is the excess contraction of muscles that you don't actually need to complete an action.
freya
what are eukaryotic cells
Thiza Reply
what is the mean of pair of chromosomes
Kazula Reply
hi
Lagos
23 haploid and 23diploid
Patson
how are you studying in this quarantine? .. how are you keeping yourselves motivated?
sivajijadhav @815.com
good morning guyz
Joelia
morning
Kazula
hi
Justin
Good
Angela
tell me if you know what can be used...than reading pls hint me pls 🙏🙏🙏
Angela
what is the important of sex
Aremu Reply
why did human being need sex?
Aremu
because he/she have feelings
Chripine
reproduction...to make more
Yazi
due to active harmon
Manish
One important of sex is to reproduce
Emma
to ensure the countinuty of life
Yusuf
all of you are right
Edith
what is momentum
Asiya Reply
The strength or force that allows something to continue or grow stronger or faster as time pass
Emma
What is Centripetal Force?
Justin
centrepital force is the inward force required to keep a body moving with constant speed in a circular path
Yusuf
what is the test for protein
Takii Reply
List four condition necessary for seed germination
Tedeka Reply
water,air(oxygen),light,temperature
Hassan
water, light, oxygen and temperature
lilchris
water, oxygen, light temperature
Mike
water oxygen light and temperature
John
importance of biology
Alabina Reply
importance of boilogy
Alabina
what is soil
Amina Reply
soil is the upper part of the earth
Alabina
what is importance of studying biology
Alabina
soil is the uppermost layer of the earth on which plant grows
Yusuf
soil is defined as the thin surface of the upper most layer of the earth crust on which plants grow
Thanni
soil is the upper part of the earth which plants grow on
Emma
differences between euglenoid and amoeboid
Grace Reply
what are the difference between aerobic and anaerobic respiration?
Maxwell Reply
Aerobic respiration involves the use of oxygen whiles anaerobic respiration does not involve the use of oxygen
Quabena
what is assmilation
Lucy Reply
what is cell
Manish Reply
cell is the structural and functional unit of life or living things
hamid
where anaerobic respiration occurre?
Manish
in cell
Manish
in cells?
Manish
where anaerobic respiration occurre in cell?
Manish
what's phloem?
Gift Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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