Studies in mice by scientists from the University of Manchester in England may help explain why certain individuals seem to be naturally protected from harmful parasitic worms (Hasnain SZ et al. J Exp Med. 2011;208:893-900).
The researchers previously found that the mice that were able to expel the whipworm Trichuris muris (which is closely related to the human equivalent, Trichuris trichiura) from the gut also made more mucus in the gut and that this mucus contained a sugar-coated protein, or mucin, called Muc5ac. In the new work, the team found that mice lacking the gene that encodes Muc5ac were incapable of expelling T muris from the intestine and harbored long-term infections despite mounting a strong immune response against the parasites.
Hampton T. Antiparasitic Mucin. JAMA. 2011;306(1):30. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.913