Two studies led by UT Southwestern researchers shed light on the biology and potential vulnerabilities of schistosomes — parasitic flatworms that cause the little-known tropical disease schistosomiasis. The findings, published online today in Science, could change the course of this disease that kills up to 250,000 people a year.
About 240 million people around the world have schistosomiasis — mostly children in Africa, Asia, and South America in populations that represent “the poorest of the poor,” says study leader James J. Collins III, Ph.D., associate professor in UTSW’s department of pharmacology.
Most of those infected survive, but those who die often suffer organ failure or parasite-induced cancer. Symptoms can be serious enough to keep people from living productive lives, Collins says.
The parasite that causes this disease has a complicated life cycle that involves stages in both freshwater snails and mammals. Dwelling in mammalian hosts’ circulatory systems, schistosomes feed
“Covid-19 is both a wildfire and a spotlight. [It] has imposed a terrible burden of suffering on certain individuals, families, and communities. Yet it has left others almost untouched,” said President L. Rafael Reif at the inaugural MIT Forefront, a new virtual series created by the Institute. “But the pandemic has also forced the nation to focus on deep, longstanding inequalities. [T]oday, we will explore meaningful ways to disrupt the inequalities of Covid.”
Through MIT Forefront, the Institute aims to scout the frontiers of science and technology for bold new answers to urgent global problems. On Sept. 24, the first session, “Disrupting the Inequalities of Covid-19 in Work and Health Care,” brought business and policy leaders and MIT experts together to share knowledge and discuss strategies for building a more equitable future.
The hourlong event, viewed live by more than 1,000 people, began with a video from Mariana Matus PhD