Summary

4.1 Unicellular Eukaryotic Parasites

  • Protists are a diverse, polyphyletic group of eukaryotic organisms.
  • Protists may be unicellular or multicellular. They vary in how they get their nutrition, morphology, method of locomotion, and mode of reproduction.
  • Important structures of protists include contractile vacuoles, cilia, flagella, pellicles, and pseudopodia; some lack organelles such as mitochondria.
  • The protists include important pathogens and parasites.

4.2 Parasitic Helminths

  • Helminth parasites are included within the study of microbiology because they are often identified by looking for microscopic eggs and larvae.
  • The two major groups of helminth parasites are the roundworms (Nematoda) and the flatworms (Platyhelminthes).
  • Nematodes are common intestinal parasites often transmitted through undercooked foods, although they are also found in other environments.
  • Platyhelminths include tapeworms and flukes, which are often transmitted through undercooked meat.

4.3 Fungi

  • The fungi include diverse saprotrophic eukaryotic organisms with chitin cell walls
  • Fungi can be unicellular or multicellular; some (like yeast) and fungal spores are microscopic, whereas some are large and conspicuous
  • Reproductive types are important in distinguishing fungal groups
  • Medically important species exist in the four fungal groups Zygomycota, Ascomycota, Basidiomycota, and Microsporidia
  • Fungi can produce deadly toxins
  • Important differences in fungal cells, such as ergosterols in fungal membranes, can be targets for antifungal medications, but similarities between human and fungal cells make it difficult to find targets for medications and these medications often have toxic adverse effects

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