Successful mapping of genes of a parasitic worm in pigs has lead to possibility of new treatments for inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiples sclerosis, diabetes and autism, reveals the finding of a global study lead by University of Melbourne.
Lead researcher, Dr Aaron Jex, Faculty of Veterinary Science, said, "We know that humans infected with the harmless, 'pig whipworm' can have significantly reduced symptoms linked to autoimmune diseases. And now we have the genetic sequence of the worm, it opens the door to future human drug designs and treatment."
Although the 'pig whipworm' causes disease and losses in livestock, it does not cause disease in humans.
In contrast, the 'human whipworm' infects around 1 billion people, mainly children in developing nations, and causes dysentery, malnourishment and impairment of physical and mental development.
Coauthor, Prof Robin Gasser, Faculty of Veterinary Science, said, "The genes tells us about the proteins that this worm uses to interact with our immune systems. Knowing the worm's molecular landscape could be very useful in starting to understand autoimmune diseases in humans."