worminfectionFaculty researchers have made an important step towards finding a treatment for gastrointestinal parasitic worm infections. These infections affect nearly a quarter of the world’s population and have been heavily linked with poverty. They often result in chronic, long-lasting infections which lead to a diminished quality of life, health problems, and disruptions to the education of school-age children.

A team at The Manchester Collaborative Centre for Inflammation Research has identified an immune response pathway which appears to play an important role in driving the chronic infection. Potentially, this could be targeted for therapy. Dr Mark Travis, who led the research team, said:

“Current treatments involve the use of drugs that expel parasitic worms from the body by killing them. However, this doesn’t prevent rapid re-infection and sufferers often encounter problems with drug resistance. As these infections are usually chronic, they are likely to influence the behaviour of the body’s immune system. We wanted to look in more detail at the pathways via cells and molecules in the body that regulate the immune response during infections. We believe this is crucial for the identification of new ways to treat these poorly managed infections.”

The team examined the behaviour of TGFβ, a molecule which has many functions related to controlling the body’s immune response. The study found that when this key molecule was blocked soon after infection, the levels of protection from infection were significant. Dr Travis said:

“We have therefore identified a new pathway that regulates immune responses in the gut and can protect against infection. There now needs to be further research to see whether this could be used to create a protective immune response during a parasite infestation.”

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