New developments might be incoming, as a parasitic worm could boost fertility for women and help create new drugs that could see to the same effects.
- Researchers studied almost 1000 Bolivian women
- The average family size in Bolivia is 9 members
- Women with the roundworm Ascaris lumbricoides infection had an average of 2 more children
- The hookworm had the opposite effect, resulting in less pregnancies
Researchers have conducted a study on 986 indigenous women in Bolivia, where the average family size is of a whopping nine total members. Their conclusions were drawn from the fact that over two thirds of the participants had a parasitic worm inside them called Ascaris lumbricoides. Perhaps that is not a mere coincidence.
A. lumbricoides is a giant roundworm found in humans. For the women in Bolivia, it apparently resulted in an average of two more children than non-infected families. It has been found that the parasitic infection somehow boosts female fertility. This has drawn the attention of scientists, as it was discovered in around 70% of the participants.
The question now stands as to how it may create such effects. According to Aaron Blackwell, who is a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, there are natural changes in a woman’s immune system when she becomes pregnant. A parasite, such as A. lumbricoides, has the same effect. It essentially makes the immune system friendlier to pregnancy.
It could be a matter of preparation. A fetus in itself is an invading entity growing within the female body. However, instead of rejecting it, it embraces it, which may be prompted even stronger by the already existing parasite. It has already prepped a potential mother’s body for becoming pregnant.
Researchers also note that this is not a shared feature among multiple parasites. Others, such as hookworms, for example, have the opposite effects. They do not enhance the immune system, but actually suppress it, which may lead to fewer chances of conception.
However, before this turns into practice, much more research is needed. It’s an “intriguing possibility”, but they will obviously not be encouraging any prospective mothers to become infected. What they can do, is conduct further study on the Bolivian women’s immune systems, and understand how the worm affected them.
By properly ascertaining the effects, there is hope that they could artificially mimic it.
The team of researchers do not know yet what is responsible for that effect. But it is apparent that worms can affect the fertility of potential mothers, be it in a negative or positive way. It’s estimated that around 800 million people around the world are infected with either the roundworm or the hookworm.
They are common among young girls and women living in poverty. And, unfortunately, they may also lead to complications during pregnancy.
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