Genomes of Parasitic Flatworms Decoded

schistosomiasis wormTwo international research teams have found out sequence of two species of parasitic flatworms that cause schistosomiasis. This finding will be able to provide an invaluable resource for developing new ways to cure the disease.

Both the studies were published on July 15, 2009, in the journal “Nature”. NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) partly funded both teams’ work.

Finding new drugs and way to cure the disease was a key goal of the team that sequenced the S. masoni genome. They used bioinformatics screens to identify the drug targets. The researchers made a comparison between parasite proteins and a database of currently marketed drugs directed at other human diseases. In a result 66 drugs came out that could potentially inhibit the parasite’s metabolism.

This Chronic infection makes life miserable for millions of people in tropical countries and can also lead to death.

What is Schistosomiasis ?
Schistosomiasis is also commonly known as snail fever. It is one of the neglected tropical diseases which prevail in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Every year around 200 million people are been victimized by this disease. In which 10 percent of infected individual develop a weakened immune system, severe anemia, chronic diarrhea, and organ damage caused by the worms and their eggs. People inhabiting in areas where water is unsafe, sanitation is not adequate with no proper health care are more prone to this disease.

How an individual is infected with Schistosomiasis?
People get infected with Microscopic Schistosoma parasites while wading, bathing or swimming in fresh water where small snails are inhabited, which plays intermediate hosts to these parasites.

The parasites int he water enter into human skin and go in the blood vessels that supply urinary and intestinal organs. As the worms get mature and reproduce, the eggs are released back into the water through human excretion, starting the cycle again.

Treatment for Schistosomiasis
A drug called praziquantel is used for the treatment of this disease. Though the drug is effective and prevents re-infection, but there is a danger that the parasites may become resistant to it.

SourceNational Institutes of Health

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