Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Parasites Week Wiping Out Worms
23 June 2014

Wiping Out Worms

Lymphatic filariasis, (also known as elephantiasis) a parasitic infection caused by three types of roundworms Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi and B. timori, affects over 120 million people worldwide. The adult worms dwell in the lymphatic system blocking lymph nodes causing swelling or lymphoedema. Female worms can produce millions of microfilariae [baby worms] – here seen being attacked by a cell of the immune system – that circulate in the blood. Mosquitoes, if feeding from an infected bloodstream, acquire microfilariae, and can spread them to other humans. Currently, drugs are being used to reduce the number of microfilariae in the blood. However, research now shows that insecticide-treated bed-nets, targeting mosquito vectors, also strongly affects the spread of lymphatic filariasis. Shortening the mosquitoes’ life-span interrupted the progression of microfilariae into infective worms. Combining mosquito-thwarting bed-nets with the worm-reducing drugs could be a powerful new approach towards the elimination of this disfiguring, disabling disease.

Written by Katie Panteli

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