The $2.5 million Starworms (Stop Anthelmintic Resistant Worms) project unites three World Health Organization (WHO) collaborating centres and is led by Professor Bruno Levecke from Belgium’s Ghent University. Its objective is to strengthen the monitoring and surveillance of drug efficacy and anthelmintic resistance in programs aimed at eliminating and controlling soil-transmitted human helminth infections.
According to the WHO, soil-transmitted helminths, commonly known as intestinal parasites or worms, affect more than 1.5 billion people, about 24% of the world’s population. These parasites live in the intestines and in children they can cause malnutrition, stunted growth, intellectual difficulties and cognitive deficits.
Large school-based deworming programmes are currently implemented to fight these worms. As highlighted in the Starworms website, a worldwide upscale in mass drug administration is underway:
The Starworms website highlights the same weakness with this approach that Techion sees every day in an agricultural setting, where farmers fight parasites by applying drench/wormers regardless of need. Likewise, a major concern of the large scale human treatment programme is that this may cause anthelmintic resistance in these worms, reducing the impact of the deworming programmes.
An image based technology, FECPAKG2 enables anyone to prepare a faecal sample for analysis in the field or clinic. The image taken is then either analysed locally or uploaded via the internet to be evaluated by an online technician. These technicians can be located anywhere in the world, including at the lab at Techion’s headquarters in Dunedin.
Developing a system which allows an evidence-based approach will revolutionise human helminth parasite management in people. FECPAKG2 targets effective parasite treatments to ensure people have better health outcomes. This approach is a working example of One Health in action.
The Starworms project is an incredible opportunity for Techion’s lead product FECPAKG2 to help address one of the world’s biggest causes of childhood morbidity globally. It extends the good work we are doing with animal diagnostics to humans and a critical, growing health issue.