Around one billion people are infected with parasitic helminths, round worms that live in soil and colonize the human gut through dirty water.
Around one billion people are infected with parasitic helminths, round worms that live in soil and colonize the human gut through dirty water. Such infections are common in less developed countries where they can leave long-lasting consequences on child development.
Now, researchers at the University of Toronto have discovered that the helminths owe their ability to survive in the low oxygen environment of the human gut to a unique enzyme variant – a finding that raises hopes of new treatments to quell growing resistance of parasites to available medications.
“When parasites are outside the body, which they are for a part of their lifecycle, they breathe oxygen just like we do,” says Andrew Fraser, senior author and a professor of molecular genetics at the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research at U of T’s Faculty of Medicine. “We were trying to understand how these parasites survive inside the human gut where there’s almost no available oxygen.”
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Image via Michael Schertzberg.