Christine Dell’Amore writes in National Geographic News:
Fast-spreading parasite species force sex changes on their victims, induce virgin births, and turn animals into “gross monsters” — among other horrors. Now a new study has decoded how the bacteria may be able to wreak their havoc: by shutting down immune systems.
The parasites, of the Wolbachia bacteria genus, cause a gene in wasps to stifle the insect’s protein-based “alarms” against the bacterial invaders, say researchers who mapped the genomes of three species of Nasonia wasp for the first time. As a result, the wasps’ antibacterial defenses are never deployed, allowing Wolbachia to begin their dirty work.