Parasitic Evolution and Public Health

Parasites are not new to us, neither is evolution. Parasitic evolution, too, is not new to us but its extent might be a new field of study.

The WHO, in a report[1]states that, “we are heading for a post-antibiotic era in which common infections and minor injuries can again kill.” This indicates that the available antibiotics are being ineffective against the infections like TB, Malaria, Typhoid and even common cold.

Cases showing effects of drug-resisting parasites have been revealed all over the world, the most common being the MDR-TB. It is extreme case of TB in which the Mycobacterium resists the effects of the strongest of the drugs in use- Isoniazid and Rifampicin. Similarly, cases of multiple drug resisting Plasmodium falciparum have also been reported. Its resistance to Artemisinin-based combination therapies(ACTs) has created a sort of havoc among the medical practitioners. Also, Ciprofloxacin, a common antibiotic against typhoid has become completely ineffective.

Immune system fights against all the foreign agents. Antibiotics are their foreign supplements. Therefore, the use of antibiotics is to be minimized. Photo courtesy:

The root cause of the evolution of these of these parasites underlie in our medication behaviors. The indiscriminate use of antibiotics, rampant prescriptions and incomplete prescribed course are the main factors influencing mutations of the parasites. As a result, drug resistant strains directly attack new hosts thereby increasing the cost of treatment. This has added woes to the poverty-stricken people.

The other problem is- we lack new types of antibiotics. The WHO says that since Penicillin in 1920s, only three major types of antibiotics have been developed and since 1990s, no major antibiotics have been developed. The post-antibiotic era is thus arriving at a faster pace, increasing the risk of lives of thousands of people. So, this has been an area of study among  scientists including parasitologists, pathologists, microbiologists, chemists and health workers all around the globe.[2]

[1]Antimicrobial Resistance: Global Report on surveillance 2014.

[2] Summarized from “Tougher bacteria add to patients’ woes, expenses”, The Kathmandu Post, May 11, 2014.


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