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Europe aids Africa to fight schistosomiasis

Schistosomiasis remains a serious health threat in the developing world. Understanding the epidemiology, the pathophysiological changes induced by the infecting parasite and the mechanism of action of the available treatment can help deduce important information about disease morbidity.
Europe aids Africa to fight schistosomiasis
Schistosomiasis is a parasitic disease of the worm Schistosoma usually encountered in tropical countries. Current treatment of the disease entails annual administration of the drug praziquantel. However, its mode of action remains uncharacterised.

Seeking to address this, the EU-funded Mustschistukema project investigated differences in patient samples from Uganda before and after drug treatment. Using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR)-based metabonomics, project scientists were able to discriminate infected from healthy individuals based on their urinary profile.

Molecular markers of Schistosoma mansoni infection identified were found to be primarily linked to changes in host gut microflora, energy metabolism and liver function. Collectively, these findings supported the hypothesis that schistosomiasis involves metabolic responses in patients which are specific to the parasite infection.

Understanding how praziquantel modulates immune responses and the implications for development of resistance may be of value in design of future vaccines and vaccine strategies. Additionally, the advanced NMR technology used during Mustschistukema for detection of parasite or host products has the potential to identify biomolecules suitable for use in future morbidity diagnosis, enhancing the life expectancy of schistosomiasis patients.

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