Scientists have uncovered the secret to the success of a worm causing river blindness

Liverpool University scientists have found that it helps to survive the worm, which is the causeonchocerciasis, a disease known as"River blindness". It turns out that the worm uses the "services" of special bacteria that feed it with energy and help to deceive the immune system of the organism in which this worm settles.

River blindness affects about 37 million people, mostly residents of western and central Africa. The disease manifests itself in the appearance of a rash on the skin, the appearance under it of dense fibrous nodes, deterioration of vision, up to complete blindness. The cause of the disease is a parasitic worm, the larvae of which are carried by bloodsucking midges, which in turn live near rivers with a rapid current.

The goal of scientists was to study a bacterium that helps the helminth to exist in the human body. This bacterium is calledwolbachia. If it is completely destroyed by antibiotics, the helminth dies and river blindness passes. In order to unravel the nature of this amazing symbiotic coexistence of bacteria and helminth, scientists have determined the genetic code of volbachia (it is similar to the genome of cattle parasites).

Scientists have discovered that the bacterium feeds the worm with energy due to the biochemical process taking place inside it and involving "into the matter" iron and oxygen. This process is similar to the energy processes of cells in the human body. The bacterium also knows how to "deceive" the human immune system, forcing it to react with the production of antibodies not on the worm, but on itself (wolbachia). Thus, the body fights bacterial infection, and the helminth at this time does its "black" business.

The new discovery, perhaps, will help scientists develop a new drug that can disrupt the process of energy synthesis by the bacterium, which will significantly speed up the treatment of river blindness. Understanding the nature of the "deception" of the wolbachia of the human immune system will also serve as a clue to scientists in their scientific work on the search for a vaccine against onchocerciasis.

He speaksDr. Ben Makepeace of Liverpool University: "River blindness is a serious problem in tropical Africa, where this helminth parasitizes also in the organisms of cattle. Antibiotics have proven themselves in the treatment of this disease, but treatment is a long process, and I would like to have in my arsenal another way to fight onchocerciasis. We were the first to discover that antibiotics can destroy these bacteria right inside the parasite. Our discovery led us to the idea of ​​the most important role played by bacteria in the life of the helminth. The solution of the bacterial genome helped to understand the importance of the biochemical energy processes occurring inside the bacterium and feeding the worm with energy, and the mechanism by which a bacterium "deceives" the human immune system, forcing it to fight a bacterial infection, rather than with helminthic invasion. The main thing now is the development of new drugs and vaccines that can suppress the development of the disease. "

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