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Published by Dbalt
A Study of the Effect of a Compromised Immune System on
Tenebrio molitor Exposed to Environmental Bacteria and Fungi at
Increasing Temperature
A Study of the Effect of a Compromised Immune System on
Tenebrio molitor Exposed to Environmental Bacteria and Fungi at
Increasing Temperature

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Published by: Dbalt on Mar 01, 2014
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A Study of the Effect of a Compromised Immune System on
Tenebrio molitor
Exposed to Environmental Bacteria and Fungi at Increasing Temperatures
Olivia Silva Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science Abstract The effects were investigated of culturing the common mealworm (
Tenebrio molitor 
) with a compromised immune system in soil at different temperatures containing environmental bacteria and fungi. It was hypothesized that with increased temperatures, the rate of movement of
T. molitor
will decrease and the rate of mortality will remain the same. Three groups of
T. molitor
larvae with varying simulated injuries were cultured in soil at 19° C, 21°C, 23°C, and 25°C. With increasing temperatures, it was found that the rate of movement decreased and the rate of mortality remained constant. By increasing the soil temperatures, the effects of global warming on the effects of potential microbial  pathogens were simulated in
T. molitor 
 cultures. The collected data suggests a trend that may aid in predicting future insect population fluctuations based on environmental temperatures. Introduction In 2006, 34.6 million people were discharged from non-federal short stay hospitals filled with potential hosts for Vancomycin-resistant
 Enterococcus
 (VRE)  bacteria (National Hospital Discharge Survey, 2006). The human immune system is vulnerable to multidrug resistant organisms (MDROs), such as VRE bacteria. While researchers spent decades studying new antibiotics, some strains of bacteria evolved enough to become resistant and were classified as MDROs. VRE bacteria are resistant to vancomycin-based antibiotics, creating multiple complications in the treatment process  because most antibiotics contain vancomycin. In the hospital setting, new pathogens can infect patients who already have a compromised immune system. When discharged, patients will occasionally return home with a new infection, resulting in the patient returning to the hospital. Having a compromised immune system can be dangerous, especially when a potential host is subjected to new pathogens. In nature, organisms must rely solely on their immune systems to fight pathogens. The insect immune system is stronger and more efficient than that of humans, but it is still vulnerable to pathogens. Studying the relationship between pathogens and their insect host elucidates aspects of evolutionary biology (Indikris Krams, personal communication). Insect immunology aids in studying pest control and some aspects of human disease. Global warming has a sign
ificant impact on insects’ environment, and
 potentially affects their bodily systems and evolution. The study of insect immunology can provide parameters for predicting insect population sizes, life span, and evolution. Global warming affects microorganisms in the same manner, and their interactions with hosts may be elucidated by means of studying immunology. Researchers have used
 
 Immunity of
Tenebrio molitor 
 1
Tenebrio molitor 
 multiple times to conduct studies focusing on the immune system, but the researchers usually conducted studies to discover links between the immune system and other bodily systems, such as the reproductive system. Few studies have been conducted to test for a correspondence between environmental temperature and immune function. Literature Review The Anatomy and Life Cycle of
Tenebrio molitor
The metamorphic life cycle of the
Tenebrio molitor
comprises four phases: egg, larvae, pupa, and beetle, as seen in Figure 1. Completion of the entire life cycle takes an average of five to six months. In warm temperatures, the insect will take an average of one to two weeks to complete the gestation period, but in cooler temperatures, the gestation period lasts up to three weeks. The larval stage takes an average of two months, during which the insect will grow to two centimeters in length. During the larval stage the insect will go through ten to fourteen instars, each represented by the formation of a sternite. The insect will then pupate and remain a pupa for two to three weeks, and then the insect will develop into its final state, which is the darkling beetle. As a beetle, the
T. molitor
will live for an average of two to three months (Greenberg, 1996). The term
mealworm
 refers only to the larval stage of the
Tenebrio molitor 
. During this phase,
T. molitor 
 has a segmented body, each of the thirteen segments representing a separate instar. On the larva, the head is located on the first instar. In the head, there is the larval eye, labrum, antenna, claws, and mouth, as shown in Figure 2. The prothorax, mesothorax, and metathorax regions are posterior to the head, each having one pair of legs. Posterior to the thorax, the abdomen makes up the majority of the larva. Unlike male larvae, female larvae have a genital swelling on the seventh instar posterior to the head. The diet of
Tenebrio molitor 
 consists of leaves, grain, fruits, vegetables, and waste. Larvae inhabit areas in close proximity to a food source, in either soil or grain stores. Adult
T. molitor 
 inhabit dry, dark climates.
T. molitor 
 are photophobic; therefore, they migrate away from light (Hurd, 1991).
 
 Immunity of
Tenebrio molitor 
 2
Functions of the
Tenebrio molitor 
 Immune System During infection, parasites attack
an organism’s immune
 system. The infection is detrimental to its normal habits; therefore, organism can no longer function properly. To
eliminate the pathogen, the organism’s immune system
 will attack the parasite using one
Figure 1. Life cycle of
Tenebrio molitor 
. The
T. molitor 
 completes four growth phases in its life. (Smith life science, 2012) Figure 2. Basic anatomy of
Tenebrio molitor 
. The
T. molitor 
 body has three main sections: head, thorax, and abdomen. (Enchanted learning, 2012)

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