Snail fever progression linked to nitric oxide production

September 14, 2017

Bilharzia, caused by a parasitic worm found in freshwater called Schistosoma, infects around 200 million people globally and its advance can lead to death, especially in children in developing countries.

But the parasite's growth can be impeded by nitric oxide, an immune system chemical, produced naturally in healthy humans and animals, according to a study by a team of researchers from China, the UK and the USA published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Geoff Hide, professor of parasitology at the University of Salford, working with Professor Zhao-Rong Lun reached their conclusions after study of a rat strain that cannot make nitric oxide.

"This strain of rat is highly susceptible to infection and the severe pathology caused by the parasite. When we return nitric oxide levels to normal in these rats, they recover their natural resistance to the parasite."

The study describes how oxide blocks growth of the parasite. When it is in the body, the parasite releases eggs into the liver, intestine and other organs causing growths known as granulomas. These granulomas cause the severe pathology that cause disease and even death. This study shows that blocks growth of the reproductive organs of the parasite, it cannot then produce eggs, so granulomas do not form and then no disease effects are seen.

Nitric - a natural gas related to laughing gas - cannot be administered to humans, highlighting the vital role of a strong immune system.

"Treatment for tropical diseases are most commonly considered to be vaccinations and other post-infection medicines, but it is also vitally important that we think about therapies which encourage people's immune systems to produce NO".

Bilharzia is found predominantly in Africa, Asia and South America and is transmitted by a water-dwelling snail. The parasite is released from the snail and contaminates water. Humans acquire the parasite by skin contact with contaminated water.

Explore further: Blood vessels are not designed to fight infection

More information: Jia Shen et al. Nitric oxide blocks the development of the human parasite Schistosoma japonicum, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2017). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1708578114

Related Stories

Blood vessels are not designed to fight infection

July 10, 2017
Osaka University researchers show endothelial cells are vulnerable to bacterial infection because they lack certain immune machinery common in other cells.

Sun effects on skin reveal eczema therapy clues

June 19, 2017
Exposure to sunlight releases a compound from the skin that can alleviate symptoms of eczema, research has found.

New research offers the potential of new treatments for toxoplasma-induced pneumonia and cystic fibrosis

April 29, 2015
The research has discovered a link between a vital pumping system that does not function correctly in people with cystic fibrosis and the parasite Toxoplasma.

Breakthrough in the study of Autoimmune Disease

June 3, 2011
Diseases of the immune system such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis could be treated by a gas produced naturally by the body, scientists at the University have found.

Recommended for you

Groundbreaking investigative effort identifies gonorrhea vaccine candidates

September 19, 2017
Researchers at Oregon State University have identified a pair of proteins that show promise as the basis for a gonorrhea vaccine.

Snail fever progression linked to nitric oxide production

September 14, 2017
Bilharzia, caused by a parasitic worm found in freshwater called Schistosoma, infects around 200 million people globally and its advance can lead to death, especially in children in developing countries.

Systems analysis points to links between Toxoplasma infection and common brain diseases

September 13, 2017
More than 2 billion people - nearly one out of every three humans on earth, including about 60 million people in the United States - have a lifelong infection with the brain-dwelling parasite Toxoplasma gondii.

Study clears important hurdle toward developing an HIV vaccine

September 13, 2017
An international team of researchers has demonstrated a way of overcoming one of the major stumbling blocks that has prevented the development of a vaccine against HIV: the ability to generate immune cells that stay in circulation ...

As 'flesh-eating' Leishmania come closer, a vaccine against them does, too

September 13, 2017
Parasites that ulcerate the skin, can disfigure the face, and may fatally mutilate its victim's internal organs are creeping closer to the southern edges of the United States.

Promising clinical trial results could give doctors a new tool against drug-resistant strains of malaria parasite

September 13, 2017
Tulane University researchers have developed a new drug that is effective against non-severe cases of malaria, according to results from an FDA-supervised clinical trial published in the latest issue of The Lancet Infectious ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.