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UPLB discovers ‘good’ parasite

The Institute of Biological Sciences of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) recently discovered a parasite that can actually be beneficial to those who are fond of consuming fish.

The Acanthocephala, also known as thorny-headed worm, while it is considered as an infection among fish, is known to accumulate heavy metal concentration in their host’s tissues such as gills and intestine.

Acanthocephalan infection, according to the study, affects only the host’s (fish) size or weight and length but has no significant effect on the immediate health of the fish.

Dr. Vachel Gay V. Paller, NRCP biologist/researcher, says that as the number of parasites increases, the length of tilapia decreases during a study done in seven lakes in San Pablo, Laguna namely Bunot, Calibato, Mohicap, Palakpakin, Pandin, Sampaloc and Yambo.

“Smaller tilapia may not be so bad. Some may have parasites, but these parasites may just save the consumers from possible heavy metal intake. Besides, the parasites stay in those parts – gills and intestine – which the consumers most likely discard,” said Paller.

The study, funded by the National Research Council of the Philippines of the Department of Science and Technology (NRCP-DOST), is relevant at this time when the government is pushing for a cleaner environment, especially in the coastal areas where many people live and obtain their livelihood.

Among the heavy metal sources of pollutants in the lakes come from car parts like worn tires and engine parts, untreated wastes from hospital, residential and commercial establishments; and pesticides from agricultural land areas.