Could hookworm saliva lead to a new treatment for type 2 diabetes? 15 September 2021 Sometimes medical breakthroughs appear in the most unexpected forms and that’s why researchers are hopeful that the humble hookworm could hold the key to a new diabetes treatment. Researchers at James Cook University and Macrobiome Therapeutics believe the anti-inflammatory properties of the creature’s saliva may help prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes. “If the project is successful and we come up with a drug [for diabetes] inspired by parasitic worms … that will be a game changer, ” molecular parasitologist Dr Alex Loukas said. Studies in developing countries found that people who took deworming medication to remove parasites became more susceptible to conditions like diabetes. “Parasitic worms secrete all sorts of compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties to stop your immune system from flushing [the worms] out,” he said. Hookworms are also being studied for other purposes, such as using their larvae to treat gluten intolerance and coeliac disease, and genetically modifying hookworms to protect frontline soldiers from chemical and biological threats. “There is something in these [parasitic] infections that can prevent the onset of these types of diseases and our goal now is to try to distil those in molecular medicine.” Researchers hope to conduct preclinical studies (the testing stage before human trials) within the next five years. Key Findings Researchers are working to develop a new drug for type 2 diabetes by determining what therapeutic properties hookworm saliva has. Hookworms are also being studied for other purposes, such as treating gluten intolerance and coeliac disease, and protecting soldiers from biological and chemical threats. Researchers hope to conduct preclinical studies for drugs derived from hookworms within the next five years.