Helminth Drug Development

Our research team is interested in identifying and developing novel, broad spectrum and orally active drugs against helminthic diseases. Helminths (parasitic worms) include cestodes (tapeworms), nematodes (roundworms) and trematodes (flukes), which cause diseases such as soil-transmitted helminthiases, schistosomiasis and food-borne trematodiases. These diseases affect hundreds of millions of people, particularly those living in poor rural communities of the developing world.

So far, vaccination is not available and is unlikely to be soon. Accordingly, therapeutic drugs, regularly administered, are the only way to control morbidity. Due to the fact, that only very few of those drugs are currently on hand the development of new, safe and efficacious anthelminthics is indispensable.

The research in our unit covers a broad spectrum from fundamental experiments to applied studies, from bench work to clinical trials in the field.

In the laboratory, we are developing assays and rodent nematode and trematode models to screen promising molecules for drug discovery and to investigate their mechanisms of action and activity through the use of electron microscopy (in collaboration with the Microscopy Center at the University of Basel). Another main research emphasis is preclinical work. We investigate the drug disposition and metabolic parameters of drug development candidates in sheep, humans and in rodents, which are experimentally infected with different helminths. We collaborate closely with the Division of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Basel Hospital and the Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz, both of which offer excellent analytical facilities (LC/MS-MS).

Together with the Ecosystem Health Sciences unit, we are designing and assisting in human clinical trials in endemic countries to asses the safety and efficacy of oral antihelminthics.

For more information and details see section 15 in the Biennial Report 2009-2010.