The largest study so far on the genetic build of worms has shown hundreds of new evidence on how to attack a human body, avoid its immune system and cause disease.
The results suggest potential treatments to get rid of these worms to help combat some of the most neglected tropical diseases, including river blindness, bilhahia and ancelostomat, affecting around a billion people around the world.
"Parasitic worms are one of our oldest enemies and have evolved over millions of years to gain considerable experience in the manipulation of the immune system," said Mikdunka Mitreva of the McDonnell Institute of Genome at the University of Washington, who co-created research with colleagues at the Wellcome Sanger Institute at the University of Edinburgh.
"The results of this study will lead to a deeper knowledge of the life of parasites and a better understanding of how the human immune system is used and controlled," she said.
Physical disability and delayed growth
Parasitic infections can last for many years and cause severe pain, physical disability, delayed growth in children and social stigma associated with distortion.
Current medications that heal, including drugs developed by Sanofi and Johnson & Johnson, may have little effect, but the range of medications treating the cut-out is still limited.
To try to improve drug development and understand how worms attack human and animal cadavers and animals, the research team compared the genetic map to 81 types of round and flat worms, 45 of which have never been genetically engineered.
Nearly 1 million new genes belonging to thousands of new genetic families were found in the analysis and many potential drugs were identified