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Unique NIAID Resource Helps Researchers Combat Parasitic Worm Disease

Schistosomiasis is a disease largely unheard of in the developed world, but in parts of Africa, South America, and Asia, it is estimated to afflict up to 200 million people, according to the World Health Organization.

The schistosome parasite
The schistosome parasite, seen here magnified 256 times, enters the body through the skin of people who bathe, swim, or wade in infested waters.
Credit: National Cancer Institute
For more than 40 years, the NIAID Schistosomiasis Resource Center has fostered development of major research programs against this disease by providing researchers with the three schistosome worm species that infect humans: Schistosoma mansoni, S. haematobium, and S. japonicum. Researchers can obtain these species at different life stages to study how the microscopic worms multiply within snails and infect and reproduce within their subsequent hosts.

The center’s strength is its ability to expedite and strengthen the research efforts of biochemists, immunologists, and other investigators who may not have the space, time, funding, or expertise to develop their own schistosomiasis resources. Nearly 50 laboratories in countries around the world routinely receive materials from this repository. NIAID estimates that roughly 80 percent of the published literature on laboratory-based research in schistosomiasis, especially in the United States, has relied heavily on the center’s material support.

To meet the needs of ever-advancing research, the center offers the capability of preserving schistosome worms at very low temperatures for long-term storage and regeneration, which is particularly beneficial for studying patterns of development in parasite populations.

The center offers a training program for workers to gain experience in different aspects of schistosome maintenance, which has been invaluable in standardizing study protocols throughout the research community and for strengthening capacity for further study of the parasites.

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Last Updated April 06, 2008