Infectious Diseases: Molecular Helminthology

The Molecular Helminthology Laboratory specializes in the use of molecular biology tools to investigate host-parasite interactions between helminth (worm) parasites and their mammalian hosts. Globally, worm infections cause diseases in over a billion people and create serious problems for companion and farm animals. The laboratory currently puts emphasis on the blood flukes that cause schistosomiasis although we have projects involving cestodes (tapeworms) and nematode (roundworm) parasites. The lab uses molecular genetic techniques to characterize the biochemical nature of the surface and to identify vaccine candidates that are exposed to the host and may be protective against parasite infection.

The group is particularly interested in surface molecules that allow intravascular schistosomes maintain access to necessary host metabolites yet manage to impede host protective immune and hemostatic defenses. The laboratory has cloned and characterized genes encoding a wide variety of transporters as well as putative immunomodulators, and is exploring the utility of several new molecular tools such as RNA-mediated interference (RNAi), transgenesis and display technologies to enhance our ability to investigate host/parasite interactions.