Recently we reported the successful CRISPR/Cas based genome editing both in the human blood fluke, Schistosoma mansoni and the carcinogenic liver fluke, Opisthorchis viverrini (Ittiprasert et al 2019 eLife; Arunsan, Ittiprasert, Smout et al 2019 eLife). These reports pioneered genome editing for the trematodes and indeed the platyhelminths at large. The omega-1 (ω1) ribonuclease is the principal Th2-inducing factor secreted by the egg of this schistosome and the appearance of parasite eggs, and hence of ω1 at ~40 days after infection drives the shift to the Th2 type phenotype characteristic of schistosomiasis. Following knockout of ω1, the Th2 phenotype failed to appear in mice exposed to gene-edited eggs. Concurrently, in collaboration with Prof Alex Loukas and Dr Michael Smout, JCU, we commenced similar studies aiming for tractable genome editing in O. viverrini. Programmed knockout of the granulin gene markedly diminished hepatobiliary disease in a hamster model of opisthorchiasis.
Paul Brindley is a research scientist at the medical school of George Washington University, Washington, DC, where he is professor of microbiology, immunology and tropical medicine. The research of his lab focuses on neglected tropical diseases, using functional genomics approaches, and on carcinogenesis of helminth infection-associated cancers -- urogenital schistosomiasis-induced bladder cancer and liver fluke infection-induced bile duct cancer.