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article imageHookworm protein used to treat asthma

By Tim Sandle     Nov 3, 2016 in Science
A protein, taken from parasitic hookworms, may provide a treatment for alleviation of the symptoms of asthma, according to a new study.
Infections of humans with hookworms are common, especially in the developing world. It is estimated that some three billion people could be infected. Not all of these infections cause harm, with some cases being described as commensalism, where the worms co-exist with the host without any symptoms; or the relationship is symbiotic, where the worm exerts a beneficial effect, such as boosting the immune system.
The idea that some parasites can raise the efficiency of the immune system is the basis of investigations into asthma. With this, specific hookworm proteins are being investigated to determine if they help to treat asthma.
In a research note, Dr. Severine Navarro, who is employed as an immunologist at James Cook University, explains: “We found that you don’t need the whole parasite to see protection against inflammation. The products that they secrete in their spit [are] where all the protective properties lie.”
The protein of interest is coded AIP-2, according to Laboratory Roots, and this protein has anti-inflammatory properties, helping to suppress pro-inflammatory responses in the body. With those who suffer with asthma, the protein lessens asthma reactions such as coughing and wheezing.
This effect has, so far, only been tested out in mice. In studies, mice have been injected with a mix of AIP-2 proteins and the effect on breathing difficulties has been observed. Physiologically the symptoms of asthma appear reduced. Further investigations at the molecular level show that proteins ordinarily involved with the inflammatory process had lower activity.
Further research is required, and this will need to capture human trials. In the longer-term researchers are aiming to develop a pill that can be taken to lower the reaction that asthma can trigger.
The findings have been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine. The paper is titled “Hookworm recombinant protein promotes regulatory T cell responses that suppress experimental asthma.”
More about Asthma, hookworms, Protein, Autoimmune diseases
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