Geohelminth parasites infect more than 2 billion people annually in areas of rural property, in developing regions of Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and the Americas. Primarily caused by nematodes (hookworms and roundworms, pinworms) and cestodes (flatworms and tapeworms), they are difficult to control as no new drugs or vaccines have been developed in the recent years.
AbGenics is developing a novel method for parasite control using engineered probiotic Lactobacillus containing inhibitory molecules (RNAi) targeting the parasite in the gut stage of their life cycle. The Lactobacilli that cohabit with the gut parasites are consumed by them, releasing the RNAi molecules that debilitate important parasite functions and render them incapable to complete their life cycle.
AbGenics has developed a Lactobacillus based RNAi vector system to target hookworms (Ancylostoma sp.), under a project funded by the Gates foundation, that can be easily adapted for use in the other geohelminth parasites.