AITHM James Cook University

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In 2016, AITHM has continued to expand its world leading research into hookworm protein as a potential treatment for inflammatory diseases. New research by the Institute’s Dr Severine Navarro has found a protein secreted by hookworms, the AIP-2 protein, suppresses asthma in mice and shows promising results as a treatment for allergies in humans.

The work builds on previous AITHM research into possible treatments for IBD using hookworm secretions. Although very different diseases, both Asthma and IBD have a common defect in the regulation of the immune system, which results in overwhelming inflammatory processes.

The researchers have since found that the hookworm proteins can promote regulatory T cells and suppress pro-inflammatory processes, protecting the gut and other organs such as the airways in the case of asthma.

The study tested a recombinant form of the AIP-2 protein on both mice and human cells. Mice treated with the worm protein showed an extensive suppression of inflammation after exposure to an allergen. The protein was also tested in vitro on human cells from people allergic to dust mites, a common asthma trigger. The research represents an important step forward in the exploration of therapeutic potential of hookworm protein and the development of a pill based treatment for chronic inflammatory and autoimmune disease.