Helminthiases caused by foodborne flukes are the most neglected diseases according to the WHO, and have a great impact on both human and animal health (One Health concept), both clinically and economically. Among these in our environment, the infections caused by Hepatic Fasciola and Dicrocoelium dendriticum stand out, infecting a large number of reservoirs making their control and elimination difficult. In this context, the reference diagnostic techniques continue to be based on etiological methods, which are slow and require extensive training of health and veterinary personnel. And the alternative of mass treatment of livestock populations with antibiotics does not prevent reinfections and leads to the generation of resistance to them.
In recent years, new diagnostic systems based on immunological and molecular techniques have been described, among which those based on the detection of small extracellular RNA molecules, generally packed and protected in extracellular vesicles, stand out, in what has come to be called "Liquid biopsy".
The study of extracellular vesicles has gained enormous interest in recent years in describing their role in homeostasis and pathological processes, including infections. They are currently considered excellent biomarkers for a myriad of diseases.
Our research group has been a pioneer in the description of extracellular vesicles of parasitic helminths, as well as in the identification of the transporting molecules (proteins and miRNAs). And we have recently confirmed its immunomodulatory potential and its usefulness in preventing autoimmune diseases in experimental models.
That is why this research project aims to delve into:
- the development of techniques for the isolation and conservation of extracellular vesicles, using molecular exclusion chromatography techniques in different formats, which allow the analysis of small volumes of samples (culture of different evolutionary stages of the parasite, host samples, etc.);
- the identification of useful biomarkers in the diagnosis and prognosis of helminthiasis, both in cattle (mainly cows) and in humans;
- the analysis of the modulating effect of the immune response in experimental models of infection (using balanced numbers of male and female animals);
- in the study and identification of possible new specific useful targets for the treatment of helminthiasis.
That project should generate a great impact both at the technological level and at the level of basic and applied science in livestock and public health, and it is to be expected a wide repercussion at the national and international level of the findings, with an undoubted return of an economic nature.