Worm research could lead to future vaccine

Recently reported in Animal Health Advisor.

Researchers have identified five enzymes essential to the survival of a livestock worm - findings that could lead to new treatments and vaccines for the parasite in the future.

The team, made up of scientists from the University of Edinburgh, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the Universtiy of Calgary's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, sequenced the genome of Haemonchus contortus, or the barber pole worm, which resides in the gut of sheep and other livestock globally.

According to researchers, H contortus is part of a family or gastrointestinal worms endemic on 100% of farms. H contortus is estimated to cost the UK sheep industry alone more than £80m each year, and has become resistant to all major treatments against parasitic worms. It is therefore, hoped the genome will be a good model to understand how drug resistance develops in this group of parasites.

Neil Sargison, author from the University of Edinburgh's Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, said the genome provided "a rich and essential platform for future research in this and other types or parasitic worms".

"With the world population set to exceed 9 billion by the year 2050, improving the security of our food supply is crucial," he said. "Getting to grips with genomes such as H contortus is our best option to tackle the issue of drug resistance and develop new drugs against parasitic worms to address this issue."

Of the 5 enzymes identified, 2 are already being studied as potential drug targets. The other 3 could also be investigated for treatment options.

“Not only is this worm closely related to many other parasites of livestock, it is also similar to some species of worms in humans,” said John Gilleard from the University of Calgary. “This makes it an extremely important model of parasite species for experimental studies.

“Revealing new drug targets against H contortus could provide much-needed new treatment opportunities against parasitic worms in both animals and humans.”


10th October 2013

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