Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Traditional Treatments

Ghanaian traditional medicines show promising anti-parasitic worm activity

23 January 2021

Traditional Treatments

Snails have a dangerous reputation in Africa, and in South America and South East Asia. In these regions, a shape-shifting parasitic worm called Schistosoma cycles between freshwater and people, using snails as the middlemen. The parasites (green and magenta, right) infect snails (magenta, left), where they multiply (blue) before being released back into the water to infect humans. Upon contact, Schistosomes burrow into the skin to then be transported by the blood to the liver and other organs, laying eggs in their wake. The resulting infection, schistosomiasis, causes wide-ranging problems from anaemia to stunted growth. Scientists in Ghana, where schistosomiasis and other so-called ‘neglected tropical diseases’ are common, have investigated extracts of 15 traditional medicines used in local communities, finding two of them to have high anti-schistosomal activity. This is a promising finding, given the urgent need for new treatments to help eradicate this devastating parasitic infection, second only to malaria.

Written by Soumya Perinparajah

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