Tapeworm infections are increasingly rare in the UK, despite being fairly common in other parts of the world, but drugs used to treat them could be about to change the lives of patients living with a completely different disease.
This is after a new study found a common tapeworm medication - Niclosamide - could be effective in treating Parkinson’s instead.
An important breakthrough, as it is the first report of a drug that could be used to treat Parkinson’s that is already clinically used, and available on the market.
Parkinson’s’ disease is a long-term disorder of the central nervous system, that according to charity Parkinson’s UK, affects one person in every 500. That means an estimated 127,000 people are living with it in the UK alone.
Currently there is no cure for the degenerative neurological disease and standard therapies manage the side effects of tremors and body stiffness, but do not prevent brain cells from dying.
Research into treatment has long focused on a protein found in the human body known as PINK1, as the malfunction of this is one of the leading causes of the amyloid plaques linked to Parkinson’s decline.
As a result, studies have suggested that enhancing the function of PINK1 could be a “significant step” in slowing down, or even treating the condition.
Now a team at Cardiff University have found that a molecule in Niclosamide (as well as some of its derivatives) is an “effective activator” of the PINK1 protein within cells and neurons.
What is Niclosamide?
The NHS says that niclosamide is a prescription medicine usually used to treat tapeworm infections. You only require a single tablet, and it kills the worm so it passes out of your bowel. Other medications prescribed in the UK include praziquantel.
Dr Youcef Mehellou, who co-lead the study, said: “This is an exciting stage of our research and we are positive about the long term impact it could have on patients’ lives.”
They will now take the findings to the next level by evaluating the ability of Niclosamide to treat Parkinson’s disease in disease models.