Parasitic worms could help fight obesity-related diseases

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Obesity in the News, Obesity Initiative at UGA, Obesity Studies

Say what? Now this is an interesting story written by James Hataway, a colleague in the Office for the Vice President of Research.

The intro is pretty great. Check it out this UGA News release:

On the list of undesirable medical conditions, a parasitic worm infection surely ranks fairly high. Although modern pharmaceuticals have made them less of a threat in some areas, these organisms are still a major cause of disease and disability throughout much of the developing world.

But parasites are not all bad, according to new research by a team of scientists now at the University of Georgia, the Harvard School of Public Health, the Université François Rabelais in Tours, France, and the Central South University, Changsha, Hunan, China.

A study published recently in Nature Medicine demonstrates that once inside a host, many parasitic worms secrete a sugar-based anti-inflammatory molecule that might actually help treat metabolic disorders associated with obesity.

The story was immediately featured in several outlets, including this Atlanta Business Chronicle article. Want to know how this is possible? Check it out:

A study demonstrates that once inside a host, many parasitic worms secrete a sugar-based anti-inflammatory molecule that might actually help treat metabolic disorders associated with obesity.

The sugar molecule, or glycan, is released by parasites to help them evade the body’s immune system. By reducing inflammation, they are better able to hide in tissues, and humans experience fewer symptoms that might reveal their presence.

“Obesity is an inflammatory disease, so we hypothesized that this sugar might have some effect on complications related to it,” said Donald Harn, Georgia Research Alliance Distinguished Investigator in the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Infectious Diseases.