The parasites’ own microbiome – that is, everything that lives inside – sometimes also plays a role in the health of the host, according to research findings from the NTNU University Museum.
“We studied the tapeworm microbiome Eubothrium and the effect this microbiome has on the farmed salmon it infests,” Jaelle C Brealey, postdoctoral fellow in NTNU’s Department of Natural History, told Steinar Brandslet.
“The tapeworm has a microbiome that is distinct from the salmon microbiome,” she added.
This means that the various tapeworm fungi, viruses and bacteria could interact with salmon fungi, viruses and bacteria. But how this could happen is currently unclear.
The importance of the parasitic microbiome
“We are gradually beginning to understand the importance of the microbiome in parasites,” Dr. Brealey explained.
Understanding how the parasite’s microbiome affects the health of its host is a priority for researchers. But this research is still in its infancy.
“Overall, little microbiome research has been done on parasitic worms in general, and tapeworms in particular. And this despite the fact that they pose a major health problem, not only for fish, but also for other species such as humans,” Brealey said.
According to Brandslet, the study expands understanding of a topic that is not only important to the salmon farming industry, but also provides background information on how parasites and their hosts interact, which could also prove useful in other contexts.