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Advance on Snail Fever Reported

A group of local scientists reported on Friday that they have identified more than 3,000 key genes in the parasitic worm that causes snail fever.


Their research results, compiled as part of an international effort, were published yesterday on the Website of the Public Library of Science -- a US-based monthly scientific journal.


The work may someday lead to development of vaccines for snail fever, which is also known as schistosomiasis.


"Our research is essential to the development of new snail fever diagnosis and vaccines," said Han Zeguang, lead researcher on the project, which is based at the China National Human Genome Center at Shanghai.


More than 20 researchers of the center -- supported by other scientists and doctors from China, the United States and Australia -- spent five years ferreting out the 3,260 genes that are directly related to specific functions such as the growth of the worm, its movement, its parasitic behavior, and its resistance to human immunity.


"The protein-related genes and associated proteins are perfect targets for development of new drugs to cure snail fever," said Han.


Schistosome is parasitic worm in the blood of human beings and other mammals.


A tropical disease, snail fever is caused by infestation of schistosomes, which is widespread in 76 countries, particularly in Asia, Africa and Latin America.


Its infestation is related to use of contaminated water and characterized by the gradual destruction of the tissues of the kidneys, liver, and other organs.


There are an estimated 880,000 snail fever patients in seven provinces, including Jiangxi and Anhui provinces.


Farmers and others exposed to contaminated water are especially at risk.


(Shanghai Daily April 15, 2006)




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