Helminths are parasitic worms. They are the most common infectious agents of humans in developing countries and produce a global burden of disease that exceeds better-known conditions, including malaria and tuberculosis. As we discuss here, new insights into fundamental helminth biology are accumulating through newly completed genome projects and the nascent application of transgenesis and RNA interference technologies. At the same time, our understanding of the dynamics of the transmission of helminths and the mechanisms of the Th2-type immune responses that are induced by infection with these parasitic worms has increased markedly. Ultimately, these advances in molecular and medical helminth biology should one day translate into a new and robust pipeline of drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines for targeting parasitic worms that infect humans.
Peter J. Hotez, Paul J. Brindley, Jeffrey M. Bethony, Charles H. King, Edward J. Pearce, Julie Jacobson