A relative of Leishmania, a terrifying group of ‘flesh-eating’ parasites which causes potentially deadly disease has recently been discovered in Australia.
According to the new study, the new species is calledZelonia australiensis. It was found in an Australian black fly species that feed on mammals — including humans. The discovery is important as it helped the scientists connect evolutionary dots. It also highlights the need for closer monitoring of exotic and neglected tropical diseases.
“In conjunction with previous research, this study provides clues as to what these parasites are capable of. They have invaded new lands in the past, adapting to infect new species,” the lead author of the study, Dr Joel Barratt from the School of Life Sciences at UTS, said in a press release,
“This raises an important question: do human activities provide an increasing opportunity for human-infecting species to take up residence on Australian soil? We know this has happened for other parasites in various places. The spread of malaria from Africa to Europe and the Americas is a prime example,” he added.
Barratt said that it is important to study neglected parasitic diseases so they can know how adaptable it is and they can prevent future spread. “Understanding these evolutionary relationships helps us tease out the events that led these parasites to go from infecting only insects to eventually infecting humans.”
The latest findings were published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. Science Alert notes that Australia, in general, is not very well equipped to deal with a range of tropical diseases, as such, outbreaks are frequent.
Just a few days ago, another flesh-eating infection has put two people in hospital in Sydney. Health Authorities say they contracted necrotising fasciitis in Polynesia in unrelated cases.
The Guardian said the bacterial infection penetrates the body through open wounds. It then rapidly kills flesh and muscle. Those who are infected must be treated immediately or they might lose their limbs and they may suffer from organ failure.