Scientists said Sunday they
had unravelled the genome
of the hookworm, paving the way for better remedies against the disease-causing
parasite that infects about 700 million people.
An international team of
researchers identified genes that help the hookworm invade its host, evade the
body's immune defences, and feed undisturbed on human blood for up to a decade.
"Our findings provide
information on molecules that are essential for the worm's survival, therefore
making them potential candidates for development of therapeutics to combat
hookworm infections," study co-author Makedonka Mitreva of the Washington
University School of Medicine told AFP.
What is a hookworm
The hookworm Necator
americanus is the predominant soil-dwelling human parasite.
Adult worms feed on blood
in the small intestine, causing iron deficiency, malnutrition, stunting in
children, and pregnancy complications.
They infect mainly people
in disadvantaged communities in tropical and subtropical regions.
Read: Man dies after parasitic worms invade lungs
Life cycle of a hookworm
The life cycle starts with
the hatching of eggs in the stool of infected people, which hatch as larvae in
soil, and reinfect humans by skin penetration, according to the study published
in Nature Genetics.
Adult worms of about one
centimetre (0.4 inches) long can drink 30 micro litres (a millionth of a litre)
of blood per day, and survive in its human host for 10 years.
A female worm can lay up to
10 000 eggs per day.
New methods to control disease
"New methods to
control hookworm disease are urgently needed," said the authors.
"We expect that the
presented information will accelerate the development of vaccines and
diagnostics," added Mitreva.
Scientists find new ways to beat hookworm
Different types of parasitic worms