FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 22, 2020
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Peru, Nebraska- Dr. Gul Ahmad, Associate professor of biology, co-authored a study, “Chronic whipworm infection exacerbates Schistosoma mansoni egg-induced hepatopathology in non-human primates”. The study was published in the journal, Parasites & Vectors, in February.
Dr. Ahmad’s main work is on vaccine development. Currently, Ahmad’s focus is on developing a vaccine for schistosomiasis. Schistosomiasis is caused by infection of Schistosoma, a genus of flatworm contracted by human contact with contaminated freshwater.
Ahmad said, “Schistosomiasis is prevalent in 78 countries around the world.”
“800 million people are at risk of infection and 250 million have the disease”.
Ahmad has been working on a vaccine for the disease for 15 years. Ahmad, along with two colleagues, patented a vaccine, which was granted in 2016. Vaccine testing was completed in mice, and in February 2020, testing was completed in baboons. The first phase of human clinical trials will be underway in November.
Ahmad described the study published in February as serendipitous. While testing the schistosomiasis vaccine in baboons, Ahmad’s group found the animals had whipworm infections. The group recognized the potential for the study on combined effects of whipworm and Schistosoma infection in baboons.
Trichuriasis, known as whipworm infection, is also a disease that affects humans, and according to the study, often affects the same communities as schistosomiasis. According to Ahmad, the trichuriasis and schistosomiasis combination may worsen disease-fighting abilities.
Ahmad said, “It suppresses our immune systems because what we found here, baboons had more pathology against schistosomes.”
The study concluded the analysis of co-infection provided insight into liver damage. The study also discussed the requirement of further studies to examine whether a schistosomiasis vaccine can protect animals against other types of parasitic worm infections.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded the study, and Peru State College was listed as an affiliate in the journal article.
Ahmad’s newest paper, “Fifteen years of Sm-p80-based vaccine trials” was recently accepted by the journal, Frontiers in Immunology. Publication is forthcoming.