More than one billion people, which includes approximately 880 million children, are suffering from intestinal nematode worms. These include roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms, the World Health Organization reports. The infections are notably common in the developing world because there is little or no clean water and sanitation. If left untreated, the infections can leave a permanent mark on health and can also be deadly. The new research focused on finding a way to kill these drug-resistant parasites, and it came up with some fruitful results.
The new study was conducted by three graduate students, Samantha Del Borrello, Margot Lautens and Kathleen Dolan, partnering with Amy Caudy, also a professor of molecular genetics in the Donnelly Centre. Their discoveries are detailed in a study published online in the journal eLife.
The research found new details on the action of parasites
Andy Fraser, a professor of molecular genetics in the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research at the University of Toronto and his team was testing a new technique for dismantling how drugs affect the actions of the nonparasitic nematode Caenorhabditis Elegans, utilized as a substitute for humans by scientists around the world. However, an unexpected discovery prompted them to use this lab worm as a sample for parasites instead.
The first medication they tried was cyanide. That, because its effects are renown and they wanted to ensure the new technique functions. Cyanide blocks respiration and, as thought, when added to the lab plate enclosing the worms, it immediately numbed them. However, to the scientists’ surprise, the worms did not die. They ended up squirming around as if nothing happened when the effects of the drug cleaned away 24 hours later.
It was then discovered that cyanide made the worms shift to a peculiar form of metabolism that generates energy without the need for oxygen. So, instead of oxygen, these worms change their metabolism to generate energy using a molecule known as ‘rhodoquinone,’ or RQ. Imperatively, humans do now produce RQ. That makes it an ideal target for medication development because the drugs will electively kill parasites without affecting their human host.
Canadian researchers depicted a new way to kill drug-resistant parasites
After the research team fooled the lab worm into generating energy like a parasite, scientists could then apply all the genetic and molecular instruments that have been created for C. Elegans to begin to figure out how RQ is produced. This has remained an essential question in a scientific area that hasn’t made much progress since RQ was first identified 50 years ago in parasitic worms, for which such instruments still do not exist.
Del Borello is now testing thousands of elements to discover suitors that kill C. Elegans when it is using RQ and which could end up as new drugs against parasites. The team already have a few promising suitors, which will be tested on animals first, then on humans.
Starting with the testing of new gear to solving parasite metabolism, the way the project worked out surprised everyone. Lautens says that the fact the team has been able to endow in a field that has not progressed much in several years is an evidence of how persistent the team has been as they worked on the project.