05/18/2017 Research

Research with participation of ITV may help eradicate schistosomiasis in the world

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Snail Biomphalaria. Photo: Vale Archive

Did you know that, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 240 million people are infected worldwide with schistosomiasis and another 700 million live in risk areas? In order to combat the parasitic disease, transmitted by the Biomphalaria snail, a worldwide consortium of scientists conducted a DNA sequencing study of the snail and was able to gather base information that may block the transmission of the parasite Schistosoma mansoni, the cause of the disease, and contribute to the global eradication of the schistosomiasis by 2025, which is a a goal established by WHO. The research, co-authored by a researcher at Vale Institute of Technology (ITV), was published on Tuesday (May 16th) in the journal Nature, a world reference in scientific publications.

“One example of the study is that chemoreceptor molecules, that the snail uses to move around in the environment, can be blocked and render their survival unviable. Likewise, the mechanisms of resistance of the snail to the parasite can be genetically explored thanks to the information generated by the study. And now, finally, it is possible to act more effectively to interrupt the transmission of the parasite and to trace a genetic mapping of the distribution of these snails, which helps us in the planning of control methods”, explained the molecular biologist and researcher at the ITV in Belém, Guilherme Oliveira, one of the co-authors of the article, entitled ‘Whole genome analysis of the schistosomiasis-transmitting freshwater snail’.

The study took ten years to complete

Before the study, which lasted almost a decade, a protein or a gene of the organism of the snail used to be evaluated, that is, an isolated aspect of the physiology of the species. “After sequencing the genome, it is possible to see the functioning of the organism from the molecular point of view, in a global way”, added Guilherme.

The study was coordinated by researchers at the University of New Mexico in the United States, and the genome sequencing was performed at the University of Washington, also in the USA, with the help of dozens of groups around the world. Guilherme was the head of the Brazilian workgroup for the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) with the collaboration of the Federal University of Uberlândia, Minas Gerais. Currently, as a researcher at ITV, Oliveira led the analysis of the data produced by the former group of Fiocruz and coordinated the production of the scientific article submitted to Nature. The elaboration of the document generated a volume of more than 200 pages, available to the scientific and academic community in the continuous search for new alternatives to combat the schistosomiasis transmitting mollusk.

Learn more about the disease

Also known as abdominal dropsy, the schistosomiasis is more common in places where there is no sewage or the sanitation level is low. In Brazil, according to data from the Ministry of Health, it is estimated that about 1.5 million people live in areas at risk of contracting the disease. The states of the Northeast and Southeast are the most affected, and the occurrence is directly related to the presence of transmitting snails. Currently, the disease is detected in all regions of the country. The endemic and focal areas reach 19 states.