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Decoded: DNA of blood-sucking worm that infects world's poor
Date:1/19/2014

then swallowed, making their way to the small intestine. It is there that the worms mature and begin feeding on the blood.

As part of the new research, the scientists took a multipronged approach to understand different aspects of how the hookworm invades the body, feeds on the blood and evades the host's immune system.

Decoding the worm's genome allowed the researchers to discover suites of genes that orchestrate each of these processes and to identify specific targets that may be vulnerable to vaccines or new drug treatments.

"We also prioritized those drug targets so that scientists can quickly follow up on the ones that appear to be most promising," Mitreva said.

While causing significant illness in developing countries, hookworms are garnering attention in the United States and other industrial countries for their therapeutic potential in the treatment of autoimmune conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, asthma and even allergies.

As part of their research, the scientists identified a group of molecules that appears to protect the worm from detection by the host immune system.

Hookworms evade notice by suppressing molecules that promote inflammation. This same approach may prove valuable in the treatment of autoimmune conditions.

"It is our hope that the new research can be used as a springboard not just to control hookworm infections but to identify anti-inflammatory molecules that have the potential to advance new therapies for autoimmune and allergic diseases," Mitreva said.


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Contact: Caroline Arbanas
arbanasc@wustl.edu
314-286-0109
Washington University School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert  

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