Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Worm therapy

Leeches and maggots have a history of use in medicine - for blood-letting or wound cleaning, respectively (and both have FDA approval for modern medical use). Recent reports have suggested potential usefulness for another creepy-crawly.

Filarial nematode worms are particularly nasty mosquito-borne parasites that take up residence in the lymph nodes. The worm is endemic to many tropical and sub-tropical countries and causes elephantiasis - the enlargement of limbs and genitals (and for guys thinking this doesn't sound so bad, the genitals can get so big that they interfere with regular physical activity. Pictures here), as well as less obvious internal damage. However, areas with high rates of filarial worm infection tend to have lower rates of inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis and other inflammation-caused ailments. This is thought, in part, to be caused by ES-62 - a glycoprotein secreted by the worm that has anti-inflammatory properties.

Scientists in Glasgow are now looking for a way to develop ES-62 into a better, non-heart-attack-inducing, anti-inflammatory.

Don't worry though - I don't think they plan on treating with live worms.


Anonymous Coward said...

Perhaps we could come up with an "attenuated" worm?