Reported in Nature Genetics today (5th November), the study could lead to new de-worming treatments to help prevent and treat the diseases caused by parasitic worms worldwide.
Parasitic worms cause some of the most neglected tropical diseases, including river blindness, schistosomiasis and hookworm disease, and blight the lives of over a billion people globally. Infections can last many years or even decades, leading to severe pain, massive physical disabilities, retarded development in children, and social stigma associated with deformity. Despite the huge health burden inflicted on many of the poorest countries of the world, there has been little investment in parasitic worm research.
Worms - People - Researchers - Genomes - Species
To understand how worms can infest and live inside people, the researchers compared the genomes of 81 species of roundworms and flatworms, including 45 that had never been previously sequenced. Their analysis revealed almost a million new genes that had not been seen before, belonging to thousands of new gene families, and which had huge variations in how they were distributed between species.
The researchers found that some species of worms had enormous gene families to help them colonise the host gut, migrate through host tissue or digest food. Other species had many gene families that affect the host immune system to keep the worm hidden.
Dr - Matt - Berriman - Author - Wellcome
Dr Matt Berriman, senior author from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: "Little is known about the biology of many parasitic worm species, so we used a broad comparison of their genomes to discover the most striking genetic differences between them. We have uncovered many new genes and gene families to help understand how the worms live and migrate inside us and other animals. This dataset will catapult worm research into a new era of discovery."
Anti-worm treatments have remained unchanged for years and are often inadequate. In addition, an over-reliance on just a few existing drugs...
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