Natural pest control protein effective against hookworm: A billion could benefit

Jul 23, 2013

A benign crystal protein, produced naturally by bacteria and used as an organic pesticide, could be a safe, inexpensive treatment for parasitic worms in humans and provide effective relief to over a billion people around the world. Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, report on this potentially promising solution in a study published ahead of print in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Hookworms, and other known as helminths infect more than 1 billion people in poverty-stricken, tropical nations, sucking the vitality from the body, and leaving hundreds of millions of children physically and mentally stunted. Current drugs are insufficiently effective, and resistance is rising, but little effort has been made to develop better drugs because the relevant populations do not represent a profitable market for drug companies.

"The challenge is that any cure must be very cheap, it must have the ability to be mass produced in tremendous quantities, safe, and able to withstand rough conditions, including lack of refrigeration, extreme heat, and remote locations," says Raffi Aroian, a researcher on the study.

In earlier research, Aroian and his collaborators described a protein, Cry5B, that can kill intestinal nematode parasites—such as human hookworms—in infected test animals (hamsters). Cry5B belongs to a family of proteins that are generally accepted as safe for humans. These proteins are produced naturally in Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a bacterium which is applied to crops as a natural insecticide on some organic farms, and CryB proteins have been engineered into such as corn and rice, to render them pest resistant.

As shown for the first time in this paper, Cry5B can also be expressed in a species of bacterium, Bacillus subtilis, which is closely related to Bacillus thuringiensis, and which is also related to bacteria which are present in some probiotics, says Aroian. In the current research researchers showed that a small dose of Cry5B, expressed in this bacterium can achieve a 93 percent elimination of hookworm parasites from infected hamsters. That, says Aroian, is substantially better than current drugs.

The scientific significance of the research, he says, is that "bacteria similar to those that are food grade—which are cheap and can readily be mass produced—can be engineered to produce molecules that can cure parasitic diseases."

Explore further: Fighting bacteria—with viruses

More information: Appl. Environ. Microbiol. doi:10.1128/AEM.01854-13

Related Stories

New drug prospect offers hope against hookworm infections

Jul 03, 2012

A drug candidate that is nearing clinical trials against a Latin American parasite is showing additional promise as a cure for hookworm, one of the most widespread and insidious parasites afflicting developing nations, according ...

Recommended for you

Fighting bacteria—with viruses

Jul 24, 2014

Research published today in PLOS Pathogens reveals how viruses called bacteriophages destroy the bacterium Clostridium difficile (C. diff), which is becoming a serious problem in hospitals and healthcare institutes, due to its re ...

Atomic structure of key muscle component revealed

Jul 24, 2014

Actin is the most abundant protein in the body, and when you look more closely at its fundamental role in life, it's easy to see why. It is the basis of most movement in the body, and all cells and components ...

Brand new technology detects probiotic organisms in food

Jul 23, 2014

In the food industr, ity is very important to ensure the quality and safety of products consumed by the population to improve their properties and reduce foodborne illness. Therefore, a team of Mexican researchers ...

Protein evolution follows a modular principle

Jul 23, 2014

Proteins impart shape and stability to cells, drive metabolic processes and transmit signals. To perform these manifold tasks, they fold into complex three-dimensional shapes. Scientists at the Max Planck ...

Report on viruses looks beyond disease

Jul 22, 2014

In contrast to their negative reputation as disease causing agents, some viruses can perform crucial biological and evolutionary functions that help to shape the world we live in today, according to a new report by the American ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

martina_schaefer_750
not rated yet Jul 23, 2013
It's BIO ENGINEERED...I wouldn't trust it!