An international team of scientists has made a breakthrough using genomics that could lead to the elimination of a deadly parasitic disease.
Second only to malaria, the schistosomiasis disease – passed on via a type of tropical snail – effects tens of millions of people worldwide and kills around a quarter of a million annually, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The 100 strong research team, from 50 institutions worldwide, is being led by University of New Mexico (UNM) Associate Professor Coenraad Adema. By analysing the tropical snails genomics the team can better understand the interaction between it and the parasite. Without access to the snail, the parasite couldn’t grow and subsequently leave its host to infect water and kill humans.
“After malaria, this is the worst parasitic disease on the planet. So, being able to do work that may help improve global human health outcomes is a very important motivation for my research,” Adema said. “Understanding the snail’s genome gives us many avenues to cut the snail out of this parasite’s lifecycle. Which one day may lead to the elimination of this disease.”