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Tapeworm Genome Mapped, Researchers Find Weak Spots to Target Drugs

Mar 14, 2013 09:36 AM EDT
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Researchers have now mapped the genome of the tapeworm and have found certain weak spots that make treatment of tapeworm infection easier.

The study was conducted by researchers from Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. They examined genomes of four species of tapeworm to understand the parasite. In the study, researchers looked at similarities in the genomes of tapeworm and humans instead of comparing them.

Researchers say that they have now found weak spots that could lead to potential treatments against these parasites that can cause blindness, epilepsy and at times even death. Some tapeworms could be killed by using existing cancer therapies, researchers found.

"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 Dr Matthew Berriman, senior author from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in a press release.

In addition to finding what treatments could be better for tapeworms, researchers found why some treatments are ineffective. One such treatment is the use of drugs that target acetylcholinesterases (enzymes present in the central nervous system), which works for diseases like malaria and fluke infection, but not for tapeworm. The study showed that the production of acetylcholinesterases is very low in tapeworms and so blocking this enzyme has no significant effect on the parasite.

The study is published in the journal Nature.                                                   

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