Parasitic worms are being ‘invited back into guts’ by traditional treatments, say Manchester scientists

By Danielle Wainwright

People living with parasitic worms are likely to become reinfected if using traditional treatments, Manchester scientists are claiming.

Ground-breaking research on parasitic worm infections caused by poor quality of life and health problems was revealed today by Manchester University scientists.

Researchers from The Manchester Collaborative Centre for Inflammation Research (MCCIR), University of Manchester have found that traditional treatment of worm infections can lead to reinfection and that by looking at pathways through cells and molecules may regulate the immune system.

Worms affect over a billion people with gastrointestinal parasitic infections, which are worm infections in the intestine, affecting nearly one quarter of the world’s population.

A team led by Dr Mark Travis, from The University of Manchester’s Faculty of Life Sciences, and MCCIR identified the pathway which could now potentially be targeted for therapy.

Dr Travis said: “Current treatments involve the use of drugs that expel parasitic worms from the body by killing them. But this does not prevent rapid re-infection with worms and sufferers often encounter problems with drug resistance.

“As these infections are usually chronic they are likely to influence the way the body’s immune system behaves. We wanted to look in more detail at the pathways via cells and molecules in the body that regulate the immune response during infections.

“We believe this is crucial for identify new ways to treat these poorly managed infections.”

Dr Travis and his team examined the behaviour of a key molecule which plays a multi-functional role in controlling the immune response, known as TGFβ.

The study found that when the key molecule was blocked early during an infection, it significantly protected from infection in mouse test subjects.

Dr Travis added: “We have therefore identified a new pathway that regulates immune responses in the gut and can protect against infection. There now needs to be further research to see whether this could be used to create a protective immune response during a parasite infestation.”

Image courtesy of Nathan Reading via Flickr, with thanks.

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