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Discovery to aid in future treatments of third-world parasites
Date:7/27/2009

Saranac Lake, NY - Schistosomiasis, one of the most important of the neglected tropical diseases, is caused by infection with parasitic helminths of the genus Schistosoma. These parasites are long lived (>10 years) and dwell within blood vessels, where they produce eggs that become the focus of intense, chronic inflammatory responses. In severe cases, this inflammation is associated with life-threatening liver disease.

No vaccine is currently available to prevent schistosomiasis. Options for treating the disease are largely limited to one drug, Praziquantel. Rates of re-infection in drug-treated individuals are high, and it is feared that widespread use may foster the emergence of drug-resistant variants, such as has seen with drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis.

The body's immune response to schistosome infection, as with all immune responses, is coordinated by cytokines, small proteins secreted by immune cells. Due to their fundamental importance, cytokine research is a significant focus of research at the Trudeau Institute. Because cytokines travel through the body to relay critical information, it is difficult to identify the cells that produce them and to learn about their role.

Trudeau investigators have devised cytokine "reporter mice" for tracking cells that produce the signature cytokine of the so-called "Th2" immune response mounted against infections with parasitic worms, interleukin-4 (IL-4).

While it was previously known that the complex mixture of proteins released by schistosome eggs induce Th2 responses and the production of IL-4, the specific molecule(s) responsible for these effects were unknown.

Research from the laboratories of Markus Mohrs of the Trudeau Institute and Gabriele Schramm of the Research Centre Borstel in Germany had previously shown that a protein called alpha-1 can support Th2 responses but is unable to initiate them.

However, new findings from an inter
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Contact: Brian Turner
bturner@trudeauinstitute.org
518-891-3080
Trudeau Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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