In bacteria vs. worm, children are winners

If the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) did battle against the parasitic hookworm Ancylostoma ceylanicum, who would prevail? According to new research, the biggest victors may be the nearly 1 billion people infected by hookworms worldwide—especially children, who risk anemia, malnutrition and growth delay.

Bt-produced substances known as crystal proteins are commonly used on crops to control insects and worms. Michael Cappello, M.D., professor of pediatrics, microbial pathogenesis and public health, and colleagues at the University of California, San Diego, found that a Bt crystal protein known as Cry5B might also be an effective treatment for parasitic worm infections.

In the October 10 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Cappello and colleagues report that Cry5B inhibits hookworm growth in laboratory dishes and in infected hamsters. In the hamsters, Cry5B was as potent as a conventional anti-parasite medication in reversing weight loss and anemia, and no toxic effects were evident.


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