Thursday, December 7, 2017
A new way to treat parasitic infections discovered. 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 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. However, in people with compromised immune systems -- such as those using long-term steroids for asthma, joint pain, or after an organ transplant -- the mild form of the illness can progress to the potentially lethal form, a situation called hyperinfection. Studies indicate that mortality from untreated hyperinfection can be as high as 87 percent. The World Health Organization reports that although the parasitic illness has almost disappeared in countries where sanitation has improved, children remain especially vulnerable in endemic regions due to their elevated contact with dirt. Further, the drug of choice, ivermectin, is unavailable in some affected countries.