Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Feeding Freeloaders
26 December 2016

Feeding Freeloaders

Dark, damp and undulating; three words that accurately describe the inside of your intestines. Not particularly appealing to most but very attractive to a whipworm. Over half a billion people are infected with whipworms; parasites, a few centimetres long, that set up home in our intestines and wreak havoc on our digestive systems. Current drug treatments are not very effective and the reasons why are unclear. Researchers now investigate whether whipworm biology has something to do with it, specifically a curious structure called the bacillary band (pictured). In a lab setting whipworms were found to need glucose to survive. Using a fluorescent glucose analogue (green) the team discovered that the bacillary band can absorb glucose through its pores (red circles). More experiments are on the cards to determine if this structure could also be involved in the absorption – and so effectiveness – of drugs targeting whipworms.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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