Discovery could save one billion people from parasites

Scientists have discovered why some people may be protected from harmful parasitic worms naturally while others cannot in what could lead to new therapies for up to one billion people worldwide.

Parasitic worms are a major cause of mortality and morbidity affecting up to a billion people, particularly in the Third World, as well as domestic pets and livestock across the globe. Now, University of Manchester researchers have, for the first time, identified a key component of mucus found in the guts of humans and animals that is toxic to worms…

“In order to be able to study these debilitating worm diseases, we have been using a mouse model in which we try to cure mice of the whipworm Trichuris muris. This worm is closely related to the human equivalent, Trichuris trichiura.

“We previously found that mice that were able to expel this whipworm from the gut made more mucus. Importantly, the mucus from these mice contained the mucin, Muc5ac. This mucin is rarely present in the gut, but when it is, it alters the physical properties of the mucus gel…”

“We found that mice genetically incapable of producing Muc5ac were unable to expel the worms, despite having a strong immune response against these parasites. This resulted in long-term infections. Furthermore, we discovered the reason for the importance of Muc5ac is that it is ‘toxic’ for the worms and damages their health.”

The study…found that Muc5ac is also essential for the efficient expulsion from the gut of other types of worm that cause problems in humans. These include the hookworm, and the spiral threadworm. Together, these worms cause mortality and morbidity in up to one billion people across the globe.

One of those breakthroughs that may change the lives, save the lives of millions of people around the world. Bravo!

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