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UCSF researchers help crack parasite genome, identify drug leads
Date:7/15/2009

on the compound discovery work. The current drug also is not ideal as it mainly targets the adult stage in the life cycle of the parasite, enabling immature parasites to escape and re-establish the infection.

"Together, these two projects offer powerful tools to combat this insidious pathogen, both in expanding our understanding of the complex biology of the blood fluke, and in helping identify new drug targets and drugs," said Caffrey, who is associated with both the Sandler Center and with QB3 at UCSF. "Schistosomiasis is considered by many international health experts to be second only to malaria as a critically 'neglected tropical parasitic disease' that adversely affects global health."

Caffrey said the disease places an estimated 600-700 million people at risk of infection. The parasite actively infects humans via the skin, taking approximately 6 weeks to reach adulthood and reproduce. For disease transmission, those eggs must be evacuated in urine or feces into fresh water, where the next parasitic stage seeks out a snail host to continue the life cycle.

"It's a wonderfully evolved pathogen," Caffrey said, noting the intricate parasite biology. The Sandler Center's mission is to chemically interrupt parasite development in humans and alleviate the significant morbidity associated with the disease.

"Research with the schistosome worm presents a number of unique challenges not found with single-celled organisms, bacteria or viruses," he said. "Developing a screening system required a series of elements to be in place concurrently, including a reliable source of the parasite."

The Sandler Center has a "snail farm" that generates hundreds of thousands of parasites on a weekly basis, Caffrey said. The group focused on the immature parasite, rather than the adult, as the juvenile's greater availability and smaller size make it more amenable to the robotic systems maintained at the Small Molecule Discovery Center.'/>"/>

Contact: Kristen Bole
kbole@pubaff.ucsf.edu
415-476-2557
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert

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