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The use of homologous worm strains in rodents is one of the strategies to avoid the use of risky human parasites

Whipworms are large-intestinal nematode parasites of mammals. The scientific name for whipworms is Trichuris (which means ‘hair tail’), a name applied by Johann Georg Roederer in 1761, who mistook the thin front end for the tail. Over 70 Trichuris spp. are recognized, including the medically important human parasite Trichuris trichiura. Trichuriasis is most frequent in warm and moist conditions in tropical and sub-tropical regions. Morbidity is most likely to occur among children with moderate to heavy infection intensities and is attributed to chronic effects on nutrition and growth (Else KJ et al 2020).

After ingestion (soil-contaminated hands or food), the eggs hatch in the small intestine, and release larvae that mature and establish themselves as adults in the colon. The adult worms (approximately 4 cm in length) live in the cecum and ascending colon. The adult worms are fixed in that location, with the anterior portions threaded into the mucosa. The females begin to oviposit 60 to 70 days after infection. Female worms in the cecum shed between 3,000 and 20,000 eggs per day. The life span of the adults is about 1 year, although some may live longer (CDC).

In recent decades, studies on the gastrointestinal parasite Trichuris muris, a mouse model of T. trichiura infection in humans, have greatly contributed to our knowledge on components of immune responses responsible for resistance and susceptibility to infection. Research conducted on T. muris has presented us with novel explanations on how the immune system induces parasite expulsion, which could have broader application for new treatment development against soil-transmitted parasite infections (Klementowicz et al).

New immune-controlled mechanisms of expulsion, such as increased epithelial cell turnover and mucin secretion, have been described in recent years increasing the number of possible targets for anti-parasite therapies.