Page last updated at 16:00 GMT, Wednesday, 7 May 2008 17:00 UK

Scientists work on parasite cure

Ibers (picture: Ibers)
The Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences

Scientists in mid Wales are searching for a cure to a parasitic worm which causes up to 300,000 deaths a year on three continents.

The Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (Ibers) in Aberystwyth has received a 354,000 grant towards the project.

Schistosome parasitic worms are found in tropical and sub-tropical Africa, South America and Asia.

They are thought to have infected about 200m people.

Their eggs are released from infected individuals, hatching on contact with fresh water, and they can live in humans for up to 30 years.

The three-year project in Aberystwyth has received a grant from the Wellcome Trust, one of the world's largest medical research charities.

'Excellent work'

Karl Hoffman, professor of parasitology at Ibers, said ultimately he wanted to find a vaccine for the parasite.

To achieve this his research team has to understand how the parasite larvae penetrates human skin.

Researchers also intend to examine the proteins that are released by the larvae into the human host, which could lead to a vaccine.

Prof Hoffmann, who is originally from Pittsburgh, US, said: "There is excellent work being done here.

"I certainly look forward to the department becoming a centre of excellence for parasitology in the UK, and also to collaborating with other centres across the world."

A Brazilian scientist is set to assist Prof Hoffman for a year, and he hopes also to draw on other expertise from places such as Africa, China and Cambridge.

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