You can download a video about the researchers and their work here.
From Mary’s post: “For some people, a great deal of the conflama around genetically-engineered (GE) crops has to do with the presence of a pesticide in the plant material–mainly the Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt protein–rather than coating the surface of the plant as organic Bt sprays or chemical-style pesticides would. No matter how many times I explain that there are benefits to this strategy (such as reduced impact on non-target species and on improvements in farm family health among others), it doesn’t seem to help. No matter how many times I explain that pesticides aren’t the only modification to plants (as we see at Biofortified regularly), it doesn’t matter to critics of GE. The fact that plants make their own pesticides? Not interested. And no matter how many times I explain how the Bt proteins work only on species that have the specific receptor for that interaction–and therefore does not affect humans as it would the corn borer pest–it doesn’t seem to have any impact. The misplaced fear continues to be used by the critics.ResearchBlogging.org
So when I saw this paper that suggested the Bt protein may be a powerful strategy for improving the lives of impoverished children around the world, all I could do was wonder if that might finally register with those who make unsupported claims of the effects of Bt on humans.”
Intestinal parasitic nematode diseases infect over one billion people and cause significant disease burden in children (growth and cognitive stunting, malnutrition), in pregnant women, and via their dampening of the immune system in infected individuals. In over thirty years, no new classes of anti-roundworm drugs (anthelmintics) for treating humans have been developed. Because of limitations of the current drugs and the threat of parasite resistance, new anthelmintics are needed. The soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) produces crystal (Cry) proteins that specifically target and kill insects and nematodes and is used around the world as a safe insecticide. Here we test the effects of the Bt Cry protein Cry5B on a chronic, natural intestinal roundworm infection in mice, namely the helminth parasite Heligmosomoides bakeri. We find that a single dose of Cry5B can eliminate 70% of the parasites and can almost completely block the ability of the parasites to produce progeny. Comparisons of Cry5B’s efficacy with known anthelmintics suggest its activity is as good as or perhaps even better than those currently used. Furthermore, this protein is rapidly digested by simulated stomach juices, suggesting that protecting it from these juices would reveal a superior anthelmintic.
Thanks Daedalus for this tip.
Hu, Y., Georghiou, S., Kelleher, A., & Aroian, R. (2010). Bacillus thuringiensis Cry5B Protein Is Highly Efficacious as a Single-Dose Therapy against an Intestinal Roundworm Infection in Mice PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 4 (3) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0000614