University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center researchers have identified a chemical that suppresses the lethal form of a parasitic infection caused by roundworms that affects up to 100 million people and usually causes only mild symptoms. “The approach we used could be applied generally to any nematode parasite, not just this one type,” said Dr. David Mangelsdorf, Chair of Pharmacology, an Investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), and one of three corresponding authors of the study published online on December 4, 2017 in PNAS. The study’s other corresponding authors are at two universities in Philadelphia. The article is titled “Methylprednisolone Acetate Induces, and Δ7-dafachronic Acid Suppresses, Strongyloides stercoralis Hyperinfection in NSG Mice.” “The plan is to develop better compounds that mimic the Δ7-dafachronic acid used in this study and eventually to treat the host to stop parasitic infection,” he added. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the soil-dwelling Strongyloides stercoralis nematode, or roundworm, is the primary strongyloides species that infects humans. Experts estimate that between 30 million and 100 million people are infected worldwide, and most of them are unaware of it because their symptoms are so mild. The parasite can persist for decades in the body because of the nematode’s unique ability to reinfect the host, repeatedly going through the early stages of its life cycle. The nematode that causes the original infection exists in dirt on all continents except Antarctica, and it is most common in warmer regions, particularly remote rural areas in the tropics and subtropics where walking barefoot, combined with poor sanitation, leads to infection.
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