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Parasitic Worms Could Be Making Women More Fertile, Because Nature Is Weird, Gross, and Cool

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roundworm-fertilityWhenever someone tries to tell me that science is boring, I can only assume they have not been paying attention, because the world is so weird. The world is full of bizarre creatures that prompt the creation of cool Tumblrs like Go Home, Evolution, You’re Drunk. Now, just to make the world a little bit weirder, it turns out there’s a parasitic worm that might be increasing fertility in some women.

According to a study published recently in Science, the Tsimane women of Bolivia are extremely fertile and tend to have a ton of babies. On average, the Tsimane women have nine children apiece. They also tend to have worms, which are common among humans in places with poor sanitation. Researchers say that 70 percent of the population is infected with either roundworm or hookworm, and it turns out that the women with roundworm are getting pregnant more often.

According to the BBC, the researchers say women in the study who were infected with roundworm had more children, and their pregnancies were closer together in sequence than the pregnancies of uninfected women. They had their first children sooner, and on average had two more children than women who were not infected with worms at all. Women with hookworms, however, demonstrated decreased fertility, and had three fewer children than women who were not infected with worms.

“We think the effects we see are probably due to these infections altering women’s immune systems, such that they become more or less friendly towards a pregnancy,” said Professor Aaron Blackwell of the University of California at Santa Barbara.

The idea that roundworms could be making women more fertile is pretty neat, and researchers seem intrigued, though they specify that it is too soon for people to start giving themselves worms on purpose in an attempt to boost fertility.

“Whilst I wouldn’t want to suggest that women try and become infected with roundworms as a way of increasing their fertility, further studies of the immunology of women who do have the parasite could ultimately lead to new and novel fertility enhancing drugs,” said Allan Pacey, a fertility scientist at the University of Sheffield, in an interview with the BBC.

(Photo: Paolo Cipriani/iStockPhoto/Getty Images)