Study finds new insight on therapy for a devastating parasitic disease

Jun 23, 2009

University of Minnesota Medical School researchers have discovered an important new insight into how a commonly prescribed drug may work to treat those infected by a parasitic flatworm.

The Schistosomasis parasite infects about 200 million people in tropical areas worldwide and is endemic in more than 70 countries, where people become infected simply by bathing, drinking, or cooking water contaminated with the flatworm. Although not immediately deadly, left untreated, the disease can permanently damage the lungs, kidney, liver, and intestines and ultimately lead to death.

A drug called praziquantel has been used as the main treatment for Schistosomiasis for several decades, but surprisingly, scientists have never understood how this drug works to kill the parasitic worms that cause this disease. Deciphering how this drug works is important because scientists could design new drugs that work in similar ways should the parasites develop resistance to praziquantel.

While working in a different species of flatworm widely used to study the basic principles of regenerative biology, researchers in the Pharmacology Department discovered that praziquantel caused a simple, striking effect: the drug subverts normal regeneration to produce two-headed organisms. This simple observation was then used to screen for genes required to control this effect, leading to the identification of molecules that control the effects of praziquantel within a flatworm model.

"Our discovery of this new biological activity of praziquantel provides a foundation for defining the relevant in vivo targets of a very important clinical drug," said Jonathan Marchant, M.A. Ph.D., principal investigator of the study. "Using drugs to make organisms grow two brains may seem bizarre, but the knowledge we gained illustrates the importance of basic scientific research."

The study is published in the June 23 issue of .

"Discoveries by researchers working in diverse animal models not linked with disease frequently provide insight into long-standing clinical problems," Marchant said. "Basic science feeds into the therapeutic pipeline in unpredictable ways and it is important to foster such diversity."

Source: University of Minnesota (news : web)

Explore further: Where Ebola battles are won

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Sri Lanka celebrates two years without malaria

2 hours ago

Sri Lanka has not reported a local case of malaria since October 2012, according to the Sri Lankan Anti-Malarial Campaign. If it can remain malaria-free for one more year, the country will be eligible to apply to the World ...

Poll: Many doubt hospitals can handle Ebola

6 hours ago

A new poll finds most Americans have some confidence that the U.S. health care system will prevent Ebola from spreading in this country, but they're not so sure their local hospital can safely handle a patient.

Number of Ebola cases nears 10,000

6 hours ago

The number of people with Ebola is set to hit 10,000 in West Africa, the World Health Organization said, as the scramble to find a cure gathered pace.

User comments : 0