Thursday 28 January 2010

It's not Infectious

At least... I hope not. I don't think it is. Up until recently, I was 100% sure it wasn't. Now... 99.99999%

From Science Daily :
About 100 million years ago, the bacterium Wolbachia came up with a trick that has made it one of the most successful parasites in the animal kingdom: It evolved the ability to manipulate the sex lives of its hosts.
Exactly how the bacteria alters its hosts' reproductive systems to its advantage remains a matter for future study. But scientists have identified the bacteria's basic strategies. Depending on its host, the bacteria either:

* Kills infected males;
* Feminizes infected males so they develop as females or infertile pseudo-females;
* Induces parthenogenesis: the reproduction of infected females without males;
* Makes the sperm of infected males incompatible with the eggs of uninfected females or females infected with a different Wolbachia strain.
This particular bug only parasitises insects, mites, spiders and nematodes. That doesn't mean to say that it can't affect us though:
Although the ubiquitous bacteria cannot trick the human immune system, it does have an adverse impact on human health. For example, it infects many species of nematodes, including the filarial nematodes that infect more than 200 million people worldwide, causing debilitating inflammatory diseases, such as river blindness and elephantiasis.

In the last 10 years scientists have realized that it is actually the bacterium, not the nematode, that is responsible for most of the symptoms produced by these illnesses. Although Wolbachia can only survive about three days in the human body, the parasitic nematodes act as a continuing source of the bacteria that cause most of the damage. This surprising insight into the disease pathology has improved the treatment of these illnesses: They are now treated with an antibiotic that kills the bacteria and is less toxic than anti-nematode medications.
I'm not concerned about this particular bug. But what one bug can do to invertebrates, it may not be completely impossible for another bug to do to quite different species.

It would be an astounding coincidence though if such a hypothetical beastie - one whose existence may well be impossible - just happened to infect someone who was transsexual. So one wasn't involved. Any such change would be the result of just a particularly rare intersex condition. Something likely genetic. Probably. I think.

From Incidence of a new sex-ratio-distorting endosymbiotic bacterium among arthropods. Weeks AR, Velten R, Stouthamer R. Proc Biol Sci. 2003 Sep 7;270(1526):1857-65.
Many intracellular micro-organisms are now known to cause reproductive abnormalities and other phenomena in their hosts. The endosymbiont Wolbachia is the best known of these reproductive manipulators owing to its extremely high incidence among arthropods and the diverse host effects it has been implicated as causing. However, recent evidence suggests that another intracellular bacterium, a Cytophaga-like organism (CLO), may also induce several reproductive effects in its hosts. Here, we present the first survey of arthropod hosts for infection by the CLO...
No, it's not the only one. *SIGH*


Unknown said...

You just got me all creeped out...Gee thanx Zoe.
Now I am all paranoid I am infected with 'tranny germs'.
no really thats funny and scarry all at the same time.
Now what if we bio engineer a bug that works on humans and release it into the population of the enemy....muhahahhaha
(just kiding, but you did give me an idea for a short story)

Anonymous said...

And I used to joke, "touch me and you will question your gender".......opps

mythusmage said...

"So your name's now Samantha. What happened?"

"I caught this bug."

Tamara Jeanne said...

@Cynthia Lee, I hope you do write that story you mentioned, it may end up helping someone come to accept their own transgender situation some day. There are several stories written on transgender fiction story sites, like, about virus, germ and biochemical caused gender changes. I enjoyed reading some of them a few years back when I was first starting to come to grips with being transgender. I did find them to be of help with coming to accept my own situation.

With the recent discovery of a single genetic switch that can trigger a FTM sex change of adult rodents and that the research also hints of the likelihood that a similar MTF genetic switch exists, the possibility of bioengineering a virus or bug that can cause a sex change could become a reality at sometime in the not so distant future. I don’t have a link to the article that I read about this, but I do recall that the author did speculate that such a genetic therapy might be used as a treatment for transgender people. I’m sure that Zoe knows the article on this and I think that she blogged about it too a few months ago. How long will it take for such a therapy to be developed 10, 20, 50 years, if ever? Who knows? And of course, once such a genetic therapy is developed, there will also be the ethical issues to be overcome. (I bet this will cause the wingnuts to go into major conniptions!) Ether way such a therapy will not be of any help anytime soon and we still must transition the old fashioned way with HRT and SRS for the foreseeable future.