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Research on whipworms has implications for human health and animal conservation

About 600 million people around the world live with whipworms. Most are children in the , whose physical and mental development is stunted by these gastrointestinal parasites. The whipworms affect their ability to learn and therefore have a long-term impact on the social and economic situations of some of the world’s poorest people. Although the whipworm species Trichuris trichiura is known to inhabit both and humans, little is known about the parasite. Indeed, until a recent study by , a doctoral student in biology at McGill, it was widely assumed that a single species was capable of infecting both primates and humans. But Ghai has discovered that there are three genetically distinct groups of whipworms – and only one of the three appears to be transmissible between humans and . It is important information for public health officers around the world.

Red Colobus Monkey in Forest near Kibale, Uganda
McGill researchers have discovered there are three distinct groups of whipworm parasites, and that only one of the three groups can move between humans and non-human primates.
Credit:Ria Ghai


Hidden Population Structure and Cross-species Transmission of Whipworms (Trichuris sp.) in Humans and Non-human Primates in Uganda

Published: October 23, 2014 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0003256

McGill University