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Worm discovery could help 1 billion people worldwide

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Scientists have discovered why some people may be protected from harmful parasitic worms naturally while others cannot in what could lead to new therapies for up to one billion people worldwide.

Parasitic worms are a major cause of mortality and morbidity affecting up to a billion people, particularly in the Third World, as well as domestic pets and livestock across the globe.

Now, University of Manchester researchers have, for the first time, identified a key component of mucus found in the guts of humans and animals that is toxic to worms.

"These parasitic worms live in the gut, which is protected by a thick layer of mucus," explained Dr David Thornton, from the University's Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Matrix Research. "The mucus barrier is not just slime, but a complex mixture of salts, water and large 'sugar-coated' proteins called mucins that give mucus its gel–like properties.

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