He and his colleagues argue that humans should bring these creatures back into their lives, embracing them as helpers rather than pests. Luke was so confident of his advice that he even ingested a few friends of his own.
Despite reports that his species of tapeworm can cause B12 deficiencies, Luke says he has been tested and found to be healthy. When he traced the evidence for this claim back through the scientific literature, he says he found only one study that reported low levels of vitamins in some patients with this tapeworm.
Human bodies contain 10 per cent human cells and the rest are non-human, largely made up of beneficial microbes that we call the microbiome.
While scientific research has focused heavily on understanding the bacteria in the microbiome in recent years, Luke and others in CIFAR's Integrated Microbial Biodiversity program have also started studying eukaryotes within the human body organisms with complex cell structures that have a nucleus.
"When everybody is looking at the bacterial microbiome we are looking at the eukaryome," he says.
"Our bacterial microbiome is essential to human health, and the parasites that make up the eukaryome are likely important as well," says CIFAR Associate Laura Wegener Parfrey (University of British Columbia). In support of the hypothesis that parasites are part of our normal gut community, Parfrey led a recent study revealing that many species of eukaryotes, including Blastocystis, live in the guts of healthy humans from remote areas, and in other mammals. This study was published in June in Frontiers in Microbiology.
"In my view, we need to embrace our parasites just as we have embraced our microbiome in recent years, and the review by Luke is an important step in this direction," says Parfrey. "Doing so just might lead to better disease treatments and healthier people."
Luke is beginning a collaboration with Parfre
|Contact: Lindsay Jolivet|
Canadian Institute for Advanced Research