Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NIH-funded scientists solve genetic code of parasitic worm that causes elephantiasis

25.09.2007
More than 150 million people worldwide are infected with filarial parasites -- long, thread-like worms that can live for years inside the human body and cause severe, debilitating diseases such as elephantiasis.

Mosquitoes spread the larvae of these parasitic nematodes from human to human, placing at risk more than a billion people who live in places in Africa, Asia and Latin America where filarial parasites thrive.

Now, a team of researchers funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has revealed the genetic secrets of one of these parasites.

In the September 21, 2007 issue of Science, the researchers report solving the complete genome of Brugia malayi, one of the worms that causes the often debilitating disease elephantiasis. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 40 million people around the world are seriously incapacitated and disfigured by elephantiasis. The WHO also estimates that about half a million people around the world have lost their vision due to onchocerciasis, or river blindness, which is caused by another type of filarial parasite.

“Filarial diseases are treatable, but the current treatments were discovered decades ago,” says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “There is an urgent need for new discoveries in this area because of the limitations of the current drugs, including toxicities and the development of resistance.” The B. malayi genome reveals dozens of potential new targets for drugs or vaccines and should provide new opportunities for understanding, treating and preventing elephantiasis and similar diseases.

“Having a complete genetic blueprint gives us a better understanding of what genes are important for different processes so you can target them more specifically,” says Elodie Ghedin, Ph.D., who led the sequencing project while at the Institute for Genomic Research, now part of the J. Craig Venter Institute, a not-for-profit research organization based in Rockville, Maryland. Dr. Ghedin is now a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

When a mosquito bites someone infected with B. malayi, it ingests microscopic worms that develop into infectious larvae. These larvae are then deposited onto the skin of the next person bitten. Once the parasites penetrate the skin, they wend their way to the body’s lymphatic system—a network of fine vessels and organs that drains fluid from the body’s tissues and plays a key role in coordinating the immune response by concentrating immune cells in the lymph nodes. Male and female worms cluster, intertwining in the draining vessels just below the lymph nodes, and mate. A fertile female may produce 1,000 or more larvae a day and grow to be three or four inches long.

This filarial union can cause severe disease. Because they most often position themselves in front of vessels draining liquid from the lymph nodes, the worms can effectively obstruct the drainage. This causes the surrounding tissues to fill with fluid and swell to elephantine proportions.

As the disease progresses, tissues in the swelling arms, legs or scrotum can die or become infected, turning black and oozing puss. To make matters worse, the fluid accumulation can lead to permanent disfigurement over time as the swollen limbs become solid masses with connective tissue, blood vessels and nerve endings. Reducing the bulbous tissue may require major surgery.

Female B. malayi worms can live up to eight years in the human body. This longevity complicates elephantiasis treatment because existing drugs for treating the disease target the larvae only and do not completely kill the adult worms. The drugs often must be taken for years, and the worms can cause massive immune reactions when they die, releasing foreign molecules in the body.

The worm’s longevity is curious because it lives for years in the shadow of the lymph node, where immune cells meant to clear the body of infections congregate. One way the worm survives is by releasing chemicals that dampen the human immune response. B. malayi is so good at this that most people who are infected have no symptoms: The worms can live in their bodies for years without their even knowing it.

Understanding how this particular parasite has adapted to humans may yield medical benefits far beyond those places where elephantiasis is common, according to collaborator Alan L. Scott, Ph.D., of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. Worms can be viewed as foreign tissue transplanted into the human body. But unlike baboon hearts or pig kidneys, which the immune system quickly rejects, worms can survive for years in the body. Discovering how they do so may someday benefit transplant surgery, according to Dr. Scott.

NIAID News Office | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.filariasiscenter.org/
http://www.niaid.nih.gov/dmid/genomes/mscs/

Further reports about: Elephantiasis filarial immune cell infected larvae lymph parasite

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Building a brain, cell by cell: Researchers make a mini neuron network (of two)
23.05.2018 | Institute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo

nachricht Research reveals how order first appears in liquid crystals
23.05.2018 | Brown University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

Im Focus: Entangled atoms shine in unison

A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.

The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Research reveals how order first appears in liquid crystals

23.05.2018 | Life Sciences

Space-like gravity weakens biochemical signals in muscle formation

23.05.2018 | Life Sciences

NIST puts the optical microscope under the microscope to achieve atomic accuracy

23.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>