Endo-parasites and helpful organisms
Peptides naturally produced by parasitic intestinal worms could help treat auto-immune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, say researchers at Monash University.
Peptides naturally produced by intestinal worms could help treat auto-immune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and psoriasis. That is the finding of a Monash University study, published in the journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.
Professor Ray Norton, lead researcher at Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, said the research was possible through the "wonders of the genome era". His team had been working on molecules from a sea anemone that can suppress the effects of auto-immune diseases.
Prof Norton said scientists in the USA had identified that parasitic worms had the capability to produce similar molecules.
"We went looking to see if these molecules really were in the worms," he said.
"Sure enough, these molecules can actually suppress the sorts of white blood cells that cause all the damage in auto-immune diseases."
The research could be seen as supporting the "hygiene hypothesis" that developed societies are too clean for their own good.
"There's no doubt that as our environment gets cleaner and we're exposed to fewer and fewer infections that allergies and, to a lesser extent, auto-immune diseases are on the rise," said Prof Norton.
However, Prof Norton said that while "it's a good correlation" the causal effect of the link is "very much up for debate."
In fact one of the key scientists in the Monash study is sceptical of the hypothesis.
"He accepts the link but he doesn't accept the current explanation."
The researchers hope that their work could lead to a pill that mimics the benefits of parasitic worm infection.
Professor Norton believes producing a pharmaceutical is preferable to infecting people with worms.
"There are people culturing worms on huge scales for clinical trials in the US.
"The question will still be is the worm infection just doing you good, or is it potentially causing some problems as well."
He said given the choice he would prefer to take a pill than be given intestinal worms.
"A pure pharmaceutical might actually be much cleaner and more effective."
Source: ABC Melbourne © 2014 ABC (12/08/14)
The pig whipworm could help treat people suffering from arthritis, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and autism.
Medical experts are excited at the unlikely new hope a parasitic worm found in pigs could offer across a suite of illnesses and ailments.
University of Melbourne has for the first time mapped the genes of the pig whipworm, which could lead to new drugs and treatments for auto-immune disorders.
The pig whipworm causes death in livestock, but it does not harm humans, and there is even evidence it can lessen symptoms in people with multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease.
In auto-immune disorders the immune system mistakenly attacks their body’s own tissues.
Already the pig whipworm is being used as medicine for treating inflammatory bowel diseases.
“It seems to affect the immune system by suppressing some of the inflammation,” the university’s Faculty of Veterinary Science Dr Aaron Jex said.
“The goal is to see if we can identify what it is doing in the body and how you could mimic that with a drug.”
Understanding the genetic make up of the parasite that infects animals will also help scientists better understand the human whipworm, which infects an estimated one billion people worldwide.
Dr Jex said people can become infected with the human form of the parasite after ingesting food or water with the eggs in it.
It can lead to dysentery, malnourishment and, in children in particular, it can lead to problems in physical and mental development.
The whipworm, which is between 2cm and 4cm in length, implants it’s front end in the intestinal wall and its body sticks out, like the handle of a whip.
“The long thin head is what it uses to feed in the intestinal wall,” Dr Jex said.
The adult worm secretes enzymes that breaks down cells in their host.
For the past two years Dr Jex has been sequencing the pig whipworm’s genome, working in collaboration with 11 institutions in six countries.
The paper, published in the journal Nature Genetics today, states that understanding the worm’s genetic make-up should enable the design of urgently needed drugs to treat the human form of the disease.
Dr Jex said the human whipworm is predominately found in south east Asia in rural or remote areas, particularly where there are inadequate sewerage systems.
There is one treatment that is currently being distributed to children in countries most at risk, but alternatives are needed to prevent drug resistance.
Source: Herald Sun Copyright News Ltd 2014 (16/06/14)