A parassite could boost fertility

A new study has found that indigenous women in Bolivia have significantly more children when they’re infected with roundworm, suggesting that the parasite may be making them more fertile.

In the study, a team of anthropologists from the University of California, Santa Barbara, studied a group of  indigenous Bolivians for nine years, that are often infected with helminths sush as roundworms and hookworm.



In particular, the group of Aaron Blackwell found that women who were infested with roundworm would have an average of two more children than those never infected, and those with hookworm would have three fewer. The researcher also pointed out that these parassites  could have either positive or negative effects on the timing of a woman’s next pregnancy, infact women with roundworm also had their first child younger, while those with hookworm had it later.

But how is it possible ? Ovulation triggers changes that  also stops the immune system from destroying a fertilised egg. Interestingly, roundworms are known to trigger the same immune response as ovulation, while hookworms have the opposite effect. Aaron Blackwell speculate that the parasites could act on immune cell numbers, making conditions good or not for pregnancy.

As always, further studies are  needed. The study, was published in the journal Science.

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Marina De Blasi

I am a biotechnologist with a Ph.D. in animal models and have a background in animal reproduction.

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