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A good mouse model for a bad worm

Ever heard of schistosomiasis? No biggie, it’s just a tiny worm that at last count has burrowed its way into about 200 million of the world’s people, the vast majority of them in Africa and, much of the time, under 14 years of age. About one in 10 infected individuals suffers severe consequences. You get it by wading in snail-infested waters.

One particular species of the worm, Schistosoma haemotobium, is infecting just over 110 million urinary tracts at the moment. S. haemotobium infection can cause inflammation, blood in the urine and bladder dysfunction. It also increases the risk of urinary-tract cancers. So, all in all, not a good worm.

But until now there have been no decent animal models that accurately recapitulate the key aspects of S. haemotobium infection. And without a decent animal model, it’s very difficult to perform the kinds of experiments that might lead to a full understanding of, and one hopes a robust treatment for, this parasitic assault.

In a just-published study, a team led by Stanford urologist Mike Hsieh,MD, PhD, has developed a better mousetrap, in the form of a better mouse model of S. haemotobium urinary-tract infection. Let’s hope the drug-discovery world beats a path to his door.

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