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Parasitic Worms Of Pigs Carry Potential For Providing New Treatments Of Human Diseases

Update Date: Jun 16, 2014 09:09 AM EDT

Researchers have successfully mapped the genes of a parasitic worm in pigs which could lead to new treatments for inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and autism, according to a new study.

 "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," said lead researcher, Dr Aaron Jex, Faculty of Veterinary Science, in the press release. 

The 'pig whipworm' causes disease and losses in livestock, but it does not cause disease in humans. Contrastingly, the 'human whipworm' infects around 1 billion people, mainly children in developing nations and causes dysentery, malnourishment and impairment of physical and mental development. 

"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," said coauthor, Prof Robin Gasser, Faculty of Veterinary Science, according to a press release. 

The study has been published in the journal Nature Genetics. 

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