Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Marking Tapeworms
12 July 2015

Marking Tapeworms

Sparaganosis is a debilitating infection caused by Spirometra tapeworm larvae. Humans can catch it by drinking contaminated water, eating raw flesh from frogs or snakes, or by putting that raw flesh on an open cut. Diagnosing sparaganosis is difficult, as infection with Spirometra in internal organs can only be confirmed when removing the tapeworm. So researchers have looked into using one of Spirometra’s enzymes that’s crucial to its survival and development, as a marker of infection in the victim’s blood. An important part of their research was to check that the enzyme was specific to the larval stage of the tapeworm’s lifecycle. It was indeed found in the last larval stage (indicated by the green fluorescence), and was absent at more mature stages (red, but no green). Now it may be possible to screen people’s blood for the presence of antibodies to the enzyme, which betray an underlying infection.

Written by Katie Panteli

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