Fertility Worms Ahead

Infertility is one of the most serious diseases for the human race this century. Could Helminthology* revolutionize fertility treatments for couples around the world?

Common parasites are in the spotlight for all the right reasons – gaining a whole new status in pushing the boundaries of assisted conception. Revolting concept – until you read this extraordinary story of worms helping humans!

US researchers at Rutgers University found that a Velcro-like protein is the same in both roundworms and humans. This works by binding sperm securely onto the egg to bond and fuse during successful fertilization.

Common ancestor

Lead researcher Andrew Singson, professor of genetics in the Wakeman Institute of Microbiology reveals, “Humans and roundworms are connected by a common ancestor from 700 million years ago. This discovery will give us insight into shared genetic pathways and fertility pathways.”
Japanese researchers, who discovered the human version of the protein 10 years ago, named it ‘Izumo‘  – after a Japanese shrine dedicated to marriage. Without this molecule sperm can’t fertilize eggs. Roundworm sperm lacking the protein, known as SPE-45, failed to fertilize eggs.

Fertility Worms Ahead

Prof. Singson continued, “Finding fertility genes in the roundworm helps us understand the molecular basis of human fertility … leading to more effective treatments for human infertility.

Usually research on  fertility worms ahead slowly, constrained by serious issues of ethics, costs and funding. It’s far easier, quicker and more cost-effective to study worms rather than humans to unravel the mysteries of conception. This approach may speed up laboratory research that would take years to do on humans.

Now, across the world as scientists race to unlock more of the secrets of the fertility puzzle, will Helminthology finally get the recognition it deserves?

What I’d like to know is how scientists got started on exploring fertility function in worms. Helminthology is no the sexiest branch of research. As a conversation starter it lacks the envied panache of neuroscience.

Corroboration for study

Bolivian women infected with roundworms proved more fertile and those with hookworm infections less likely to conceive. Different nematodes with differing modus operandi. Will hookworms lead the way in a new approach to contraception?

Roundworms colonize human guts, depleting host nutrients. Roundworm infection is common in the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions of poverty. Highly contagious roundworm infections spread quickly, even in well-heeled first world children, particularly at schools. Prevention relies on hygiene: hand-washing and clean, running water. Treatment is cheap, quick and simple. 

Researchers believe parasite worms influence fertility by way of the immune system.

So it appears these tiny nematodes appreciate their hosts generosity by helping fertility and ensuring a continued symbiotic relationship!

Somehow I can’t imagine women tempted to seek personal worm therapy just yet.

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Helena Tubridy

Helena Tubridy is a Fertility Expert, Hypnotherapist, Author and former Midwife, passionate about helping couples achieve pregnancy. Her therapy can double IVF conception rates and boost natural fertility. Latest fertility information, blogs and audio downloads are on her website http://www,helenatubridy.com