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Examples of Pathogenic Protists

Examples of Pathogenic Protists
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  • 0:01 What Are Pathogenic Protists?
  • 0:42 Example: Trypanosoma
  • 1:45 Example: Plasmodium
  • 2:29 Example: Toxoplasma
  • 3:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Margaret Cunningham

Margaret has taught many Biology and Environmental Science courses and has Master's degrees in Environmental Science and Education.

In this lesson, you'll explore a type of protist, known as a pathogenic protist, that can live inside another organism and cause it harm. You'll also examine specific types of pathogenic protists, how they enter humans, and the damage they can cause.

What Are Pathogenic Protists?

Imagine that you had a small organism that lived inside you and called you home. This organism might travel around your body and cause you harm. This might sound like a nightmare that someone made up, but it is real. Pathogenic protists are single-celled organisms that cause diseases in their hosts. These types of protists enter a host, such as an animal or plant, and live within the organism. While inside the organism, the protist will feed, grow, and reproduce. In addition to living in a host, a protist also causes an organism harm. Pathogenic protists vary in the severity of the damage they cause, but they all have a negative impact on their hosts.

Example: Trypanosoma

The genus Trypanosoma contains a variety of pathogenic protists that can cause various diseases. In this group, we find a species known as Trypanosoma cruzi. This specific protist is transmitted from wild mammals to humans through skin contact with feces or urine. Once the protist has entered a human, it causes the development of Chagas disease, which can lead to problems with the heart and digestive systems. Amazingly, wild mammals can carry this protist but are not harmed by it. Trypanosoma cruzi only causes harm when it infects humans and domestic animals.

Another species from this group that is classified as a pathogenic protist is Trypanosoma brucei. This protist is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected tsetse fly. It causes the human to develop a disease called trypanosomiasis, which is also known as African sleeping sickness. People that are infected by this protist often experience extreme lethargy and fatigue, along with fevers, headaches, and joint pain.

Example: Plasmodium

Have you ever heard of malaria? This disease is called by pathogenic protists from the genus Plasmodium, a pathogenic protist carried by mosquitoes. Plasmodium have a very complex life cycle that actually requires both a mosquito and a mammal for proper reproduction. This protist enters humans through the bite of an infected mosquito, after which it infects the red blood cells and can travel throughout the entire body.

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