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Weaknesses in the Genome of Tapeworms Discovered, Study Reports

Update Date: Mar 14, 2013 02:58 PM EDT

Tapeworms are nasty parasites that can infect the body and lead to several dangerous health complications. Most treatments are not effective against tapeworms. However, according to a new study the development of new and effective treatments might be a lot faster and easier than previously perceived. The researchers at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute found that if they looked for similarities between the genomes of tapeworms and humans instead of comparing them like previous researchers have done, they can and did successfully find certain weaknesses. These weaknesses can be used as a way to attack these infectious parasites.

The researchers looked at four species of tapeworms. They found certain weak spots within the genomes and analyzed the effects of different methods used on these weak spots. The researchers stated that these spots could be attacked with certain medicines that have already been created. Researchers also found that certain cancer treatments might be effective in attacking and killing the tapeworms as well.

"Tapeworm infections are prevalent across the world and their devastating burden is comparable to that of multiple sclerosis or malignant melanoma. These genome sequences are helping us to immediately identify new targets for much-needed drug treatment. In addition, exploring the parasites' full DNA sequences is driving our understanding of its complex biology, helping the research community to focus on the most effective drug candidates," said Senior author, Dr. Matthew Berriman, in the press release.

This study provides the grounds for finding treatments in effectively dealing with tapeworms. Researching and understanding the tapeworms' DNA allows researchers to avoid starting from scratch since they can now focus on exploiting these particular weaknesses.

Tapeworms have afflicted humans for centuries. They often live in the intestines of animals or humans and although they can be harmless when they are adults, the presence of their larvae can be extremely deadly. Larvae can also be passed along from animal to human through consumption. The tapeworms' larvae can spread throughout the body and create little cysts in the muscles and organs, and when these cysts grow and are left untreated, they act similarly to cancer cells and create health issues, such as epilepsy, blindness, and even death.

The study was published in Nature

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