Learn Everything You Need To Know About Sporozoa

Sporozoans are organisms that are known for being non-motile, one-celled, spore-forming, and parasitic.

Many can alternate between sexual and asexual stages in their life, and they require two hosts, a vertebrate, and an invertebrate.

You may also find that Sporozoa is known as Apicomplexa in some scientific readings.

Everything You Need To Know About Sporozoa

Given that these organisms are parasitic, they are responsible for several diseases. One example of a Sporozoan is Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes malaria.

Other diseases they can cause are ones such as Babesiosis and Cyclosporiasis.

Classification

There is the Kingdom classification of these organisms known as Protozoa. There are single-celled eukaryotes, and they live as parasites or free-living organisms.

The difference between the two, is that parasites are dependent on another organism in order to survive, whereas free-living organisms, as the name suggests, do not need to depend on any other organisms in order to survive.

The other classification is the subphylum, which is a classification that only consists of parasitic protozoa.

Therefore, these organisms are dependent on other organisms for survival.

Characteristics

These organisms, as mentioned earlier, are normally uninucleate, although some forms that are multinucleate have been identified during their life cycle.

All of these organisms have a group of structures called apical complex, and this is what enables them to penetrate and attach to host cells.

As mentioned above, the Plasmodium species of these organisms are responsible for the malaria disease in animals and humans. This is said to affect around 300 million people all over the globe.

This disease is passed on by the female anopheles mosquito.

This mosquito will inject Plasmodium sporozoites that are in the saliva of the mosquito and makes their way into the host’s bloodstream (animal or human).

Once they’ve made their way into the bloodstream, these sporozoites will invade the red blood cells and travel to the liver.

Here they will infect the hepatocytes and start their asexual reproductive phase.

The reproductive cycle is then repeated throughout the body of the host, so treatment is seriously needed if malaria is suspected.

Symptoms include fever, headaches, chills, sweats, feeling confused, and many more.

Malaria can become severe and life-threatening very quickly, so urgent medical care is needed if someone feels they may have caught this disease.

When it comes to the Babesia disease, these are in the form of ticks and can cause fever, hemorrhage, and anemia.

Cats can be direct transmitters to humans, through parasites that are present in their feces.

This is also present in other animals such as birds, and humans can also become infected if they consume undercooked contaminated meat.

This disease can be very dangerous if caught by pregnant women, as it can lead to complications for the fetus and even miscarriage.

While there aren’t too many symptoms of Babesia, some people may feel flu-like symptoms such as fever and chills, but the main symptom would be feeling sick in the stomach, loss of appetite, and nausea or fatigue.

Cyclospora infection (Cyclosporiasis) is also another disease caused by these parasites. People can become infected by consuming food or water that has been contaminated by this parasite.

It is mainly associated with travel to foreign countries, but some outbreaks have happened in the United States, mainly associated with imported produce.

The main symptom of this illness is diarrhea, but others include nausea, weight loss, vomiting, and fatigue. If diagnosed with this illness, the most common treatment is a course of antibiotics.

Motility

Most sporozoans do not have any flagella or cilia used for moving. These are tiny hairlike structures that protrude from the body of a cell.

These usually allow for the organism to move around freely, and also allow them to sense changes in their surrounding environment, enabling them to respond accordingly.

As they don’t have either of these structures, they move around by gliding, bending, and twisting.

Their twisting and bending movements allow them to change direction, and their gliding motion enables zoite displacement.

When these organisms glide over a surface, they are known to leave a trail of circumsporozoite protein, which is now used as evidence of the motility of Sporozoa parasites.

Their gliding motion also allows them to penetrate host cells.

Feeding

These organisms are very simple, and they don’t have the specific organs that are needed for feeding and digesting food.

Therefore, they have to rely on osmosis in order to absorb the appropriate nutrients. These are fluid nutrients. They receive this from their host cell, and it usually includes dissolved food material and tissue fluid.

Reproduction

The reproduction cycle in Sporozoa has both sexual and asexual phases. This complex cycle is one of the defining characteristics of Sporozoans.

Sexual And Asexual Cycles

For these organisms, reproduction means the creation of opposite-sex gametes that are sometimes different, or the same, structurally.

This will depend on the type of Sporozoa involved. For example, gametes produced by Gregarinia tend to be similar, but those produced by Coccidiomorpha are normally different.

Different processes are also involved when it comes to the production of these gametes, and this will also depend on the type of Sporozoa involved.

Using the same examples as above, for Gregarinina, the production of gametes forms as a result of the division of gamont.

Whereas when it comes to Coccidiomorpha, macrogametes are what produce the gamonts during microgrametogenesis.

The microgamete penetrates the macrogamete, and then fertilization will take place.

The gametes that are created, then join together to create a zygote.

Occasionally, it is possible to determine the sex of the gamete by its shape and size, but this is not possible with all species.

The sexual phase is known as sporogony, and is when the female gamete is fertilized. This creates sporozoites within the oocysts. These sporozoites are what cause disease when they infect the host cells.

Once these organisms are inside the host cells, they can continue to reproduce, which is where asexual reproduction comes into play.

This is called schizogony, and is when merozites, which are daughter cells, are created through nuclear fissions. This happens when a nucleus divides itself, forming a mutlinuclear schizont that creates more individuals.

These individual cells will either penetrate new cells and the asexual reproduction cycle continues, or they will form gamonts that are then used for sexual reproduction.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Diseases Do Sporozoans Cause?

Sporozoans are responsible for a number of diseases. These include Malaria (spread by mosquitos), and Toxoplasmosis (found in undercooked meat, house cats, and unpasteurized milk).

This can cause fetal issues in pregnant women, so they should ensure to eat properly cooked meat, and avoid unpasteurized milk.

Where Are Sporozoa Found?

Where Sporozoa are found will depend on the different types you can find. Malarial Sporozoa are found in the blood cells, which is where they reproduce.

Others, such as the Coccidia live in the lining of the intestine. Aside from this, there are others that live in muscles in the body, and other organs.

Is Malaria Dangerous?

Malaria is a serious disease, and if not treated early enough, can lead to death.

People who have been infected with Malaria will often become very sick, experiencing high fevers and chills, many symptoms resembling the flu.

While it can be fatal, death from Malaria can be prevented through the right treatment. These involve certain anti-malarial drugs.

Where Is Malaria Most Common?

Malaria is most common in the parts of Africa that are south of the Sahara, and other places such as Papua New Guinea.

Cases that have been found in the United States are usually brought in from travelers who have visited or lived in certain countries where Malaria is prevalent.

However, Malaria is not contagious, so if you’ve been in contact with a person who has brought it over from one of these places, you are not at risk of catching it.

How Can You Prevent Catching Malaria?

If you are traveling to a country where Malaria is common, then there are several anti-malarial drugs you can take before your travel, so your body is able to build a tolerance to it.

It is important you visit a travel doctor with enough time before going away, so they can recommend the appropriate drugs for you.

You may need to start the course of medication a few weeks before travel, whereas some options are to be started the day before you go.

Despite this, when traveling to a foreign country, visiting a travel doctor is always recommended.

Is Cyclospora Dangerous?

Cyclospora is another disease that can be spread through these parasites. Although not usually life-threatening, treatment should be sought after right away. This infection can cause diarrhea and sickness, as these parasites attack the intestines.

Where Is Cyclospora Commonly Found?

This disease is commonly found in Central and South America, South and Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. It is normally caught by consuming food and water that has been contaminated with this parasite.

How Can You Prevent Catching Cyclospora?

Cyclospora is normally found in countries with poor sanitary conditions, and it is found in water and food.

Therefore, in order to prevent the risk of catching it, if you are traveling to any of these regions, you should ensure to only drink bottled water, and thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables before eating them.

You should also be mindful of eating any foods you haven’t prepared yourself, such as fruits and vegetables that need to be peeled, as they could be contaminated, and consuming them could lead to this infection.

When traveling, thorough research should be done on each place you are visiting, so you are aware of the sanitary conditions, and illnesses that are prevalent.

Final Thoughts

In summary, Sporozoa are a group of organisms with complex reproductive cycles that tend to be parasitic.

They are the cause of several diseases, one of the most well-known and prominent being Malaria.

There are other diseases associated with these organisms, so caution and care must be taken when consuming certain foods, especially if you are traveling to a foreign country.

Some of these parasites can also be spread through pets, so frequent vaccinations and vet checks are crucial in order to keep healthy against these infections.

Jennifer Dawkins

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