London: Imagine going to the doctor with an infection and being sent home with a course of drugs. Unknown to your doctor, you might actually have more than one infection.
If you take the drugs will the other infection go away by itself? What if you take the drugs and the other infection gets worse?
This quandary faces those treating patients with multiple infections.
A new study led by Emily Griffiths, a former University of Sheffield PhD scholar, has shed light on how multiple parasites interact within humans.
The study compiled a list of many of the parasites that infect humans, another list of the parts of the body consumed by each parasite, and also information about how the immune system responds to each parasite.
This information was used to construct a large network of multiple infections in humans.
The new insights can pave the way for new treatment strategies to tackle multiple infections, the researchers claimed.
For example, groups of parasites often share similar parts of their host, and these groups are prime candidates for coordinated treatment.
"After studying the fascinating range of hundreds of different infections that can occur in the same person at the same time, we've shown that we could better treat patients if we know what parasites are eating inside our bodies.
"Our web has revealed the ways hundreds of parasites could live together, which means that we can develop new coordinated treatments that help fight more than one infection," said Griffiths.