MAR 25, 2018 10:06 PM PDT

The Next Step Treatment for Hookworm Infections

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

Researchers have discovered a crucial step in blood digestion of hookworms that feed and infect the blood of mice. The key step can be targeted to disrupt the development and survival of the parasite which can develop new treatments for hookworm-infected humans.

Hookworms are parasitic worms that cause helminthic infections to about 450 million people worldwide, particularly in developing countries. These hookworm infections (Necator americanus or Ancylostoma duodenale) are transmitted through human skin due to contact with contaminated soil. Once infected, they take up their home in the intestines, where they can feed on host’s blood causing anemia, leading to disrupted childhood development, and issues during pregnancy. Therefore, effective treatments are constantly needed to eradicate hookworms and one such treatment involves targeting the worm’s blood-feeding activity.

Using the host’s blood, hookworms seek a crucial molecule called heme, a component of hemoglobin needed for oxygen transportation in the blood. The properties of heme are toxic and many blood-feeding parasites have evolved to develop a biological mechanism consisting of heme detoxification. Lead researcher Tiffany Bouchery and team at the Institute of Medical Research in New Zealand, believe that hookworms may use this similar “heme-detoxification” strategy. The researchers lead a series of experiments using a mouse-infecting hookworm species.

The results first indicated mouse-infecting hookworm species were biologically similar to human-infecting counterparts, which included feeding on blood and causing anemia. Secondly, researchers discovered that feeding red blood cells or hemoglobin to the hookworm supported their survival and development which was evident through the production of a dark brown pigment similar to the molecule hemozoin, which is the detoxified form of heme produced by other blood-feeding parasites. This encouraged investigators to test the efficacy of a set of antibiotics known as quinolones.

Quinolones disrupt hemozoin formation in malaria and Schistosoma parasites. It was discovered that quinolones also disrupted the production of hemozoin-like pigmentation in mouse-infecting hookworms, which disrupted their development and ability for reproduction. When the mice were treated with quinolones, they had a significant decrease in the levels of hookworms, hookworm eggs, and anemia.

However, due to drug resistance, quinolones are not a realistic treatment against human-infecting hookworms. But, these new findings from the study conclude that development of other drugs or vaccines that target heme-detoxification mechanism may be the best treatment against human-infecting hookworms.

Sources: PLOS Pathogens, Science Daily

About the Author
  • Nouran enjoys writing on various topics including science & medicine, global health, and conservation biology. She hopes through her writing she can make science more engaging and communicable to the general public.
You May Also Like
NOV 19, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
NOV 19, 2019
Drug Reduces Heart Attacks in Diabetic Patients
Recent results from a clinical trial that evaluated the addition of a drug called ‘ticagrelor’ to aspirin were shown to improve clinical outcom...
NOV 19, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
NOV 19, 2019
Genital Herpes Vaccine Works in Rodents
A recent vaccine was developed by scientists at Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania that protects against genital herpes. The vac...
NOV 19, 2019
Infographics
NOV 19, 2019
Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) Technology
Surface plasmon resonance (SPR) allows researchers to investigate different types of biomolecular interactions and mechanisms in real-time and label-free....
NOV 19, 2019
Cancer
NOV 19, 2019
An alternative for immunotherapy-resistant cancer patients
A twist to traditional immunotherapies could help cancer patients’ immune systems better detect cancer cells, making this new system capable of targe...
NOV 19, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
NOV 19, 2019
Fecal Transplants Could Treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome
According to the American College of Gastroenterology, between 10 and 15% of Americans have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Although treatments are current...
NOV 19, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
NOV 19, 2019
How Fluorescent Probes Can Enhance Drug Delivery
Researchers at Cornell University are working on improving the trial-and-error process that is implicated in finding effective molecules for drug delivery....
Loading Comments...