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Understanding the mechanisms by which parasite worms prevent multiple sclerosis

Project Member(s): Donnelly, S.

Funding or Partner Organisation: MS Research Australia (Multiple Sclerosis Research Australia Project Grant)

Start year: 2016

Summary: Over the last 50 years there have been marked improvements in social and economic conditions in the developed world. This has led to reduced exposure to a range of infectious agents, including worm parasites (helminths), which has dramatically altered the balance of our immune systems. It has been proposed that reduced exposure to certain helminths might be responsible for the increased incidence of autoimmune conditions, such as MS. This theory has led to the idea of "worm therapy"; i.e. controlled infection of patients with helminth parasites would suppress the excessive pro-inflammatory immune responses associated with MS. Proof-of-concept has been obtained from successful clinical trials. However, the use of live parasites as therapeutic agents has constraints, in particular the risk of tissue damage and pathology. Using the active components of the parasites represents an alternative, safer strategy. With this in mind, we have identified a single molecule, secreted by a helminth parasite, which reduces the incidence and severity of disease in a mouse model of MS. Here we will determine the mechanisms by which this protection is achieved. Results obtained will support the development of novel strategies to inhibit progression of MS, with potential for development of new therapeutic drugs.


Lund, ME, Greer, J, Dixit, A, Alvarado, R, McCauley-Winter, P, To, J, Tanaka, A, Hutchinson, AT, Robinson, MW, Simpson, AM, O’Brien, BA, Dalton, JP & Donnelly, S 2016, 'A parasite-derived 68-mer peptide ameliorates autoimmune disease in murine models of Type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis', Scientific Reports, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 1-11.
View/Download from: Publisher's site

Dixit, A, Donnelly, S, Lund, MA, Dalton, JP & Greer, JM 2016, 'Protection against development of a mouse model of multiple sclerosis by a parasite-derived 68-mer peptide', WILEY-BLACKWELL, pp. 1042-1042.

FOR Codes: Medical Microbiology not elsewhere classified, Nervous System and Disorders, Clinical health