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
OCT 16, 2018
Neuroscience
OCT 16, 2018
Your brain tells if a placebo can treat pain
Placebo effect and predicting when a particular subject will have a placebo response by using as little as psychological questionnaires....
OCT 16, 2018
Drug Discovery
OCT 16, 2018
Anti-Venomous Plant Compound
According to a study published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, researchers at the Institute Butantan, São Paulo, Brazil, have discovered a flav...
NOV 13, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
NOV 13, 2018
The Mechanism of a Cell-penetrating Peptide is Revealed
Cells have a barrier around them, which carefully controls what can move across it. That presents a challenge in pharmaceutical design....
DEC 05, 2018
Videos
DEC 05, 2018
Male Contraceptive Gel is in Clinical Trials
Researchers have started a clinical trial involving 420 participants to test the efficacy of a male contraceptive gel....
DEC 06, 2018
Drug Discovery
DEC 06, 2018
Repurposing Cancer Drugs For HPV Treatment
Drug repurposing is transforming the health care world. The idea that old, previously-- FDA approved drugs could be altered and to be used again for the tr...
DEC 09, 2018
Drug Discovery
DEC 09, 2018
Insect Venom Can Someday Combat Antibiotic-Resistant Infections
Insect venom, such as those secreted by wasps and bees, are considered an insect’s immune system defense because of its richness in bacterial killing...
Loading Comments...