Researcher Recognised for Pork Tapeworm Prevention

MEXICO - Mexican researcher Dr Ana Flisser Steinbruch has been recognised for 40 years of research on cysticercosis, a disease caused by tapeworms found in pork.
calendar icon 16 July 2015
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After years of research, cysticercosis is fully controlled in Mexico and researchers are now working on other aspects of treatment, such as immuno-modelling with a protein from the parasite that gives rise to the disease.

The parasite can not be eradicated; however, it is important to present simple preventive measures.

This was pointed out by Dr Ana Flisser Steinbruch, who received the Carlos Slim Health Award 2015 for a 40 year long career in research of studying cysticercosis, its prevalence in pigs and humans, and its forms of control.

"I think my main contribution to the study of cysticercosis is about identifying how the parasite is dislodged and spreads its eggs in its host," said the scientist, who works at the Faculty of Medicine of the National University of Mexico (UNAM).

Cysticercosis is caused by Taenia solium, a worm that lives in its larval stage in the intestine of the pig and can stay in its muscles.

Regarding this, the researcher explained that the danger for the people is to eat contaminated pig meat, for once in the body the parasites can go to the muscles and the intestine.

"The pork tapeworm, popularly known as solitary, is shaped like a white noodle, can measure up to four metres in length and live in the human system for up to six months without producing symptoms.

"Since the human body is not the natural host of cysticercosis, the immune system accelerates causing inflammation, seizures, severe paralysis, intense headaches, mental retardation and death in severe cases," explains the immunologist.

Cysticercosis, an epidemiological challenge

Since 1991, Ana Flisser Steinbruch has been a researcher in the Department of Microbiology and Parasitology, since 2011 she has been the coordinator of the plan of Combined Studies in the Faculty of Medicine of the University.

Throughout her scientific career she has promoted a series of treatments and educational campaigns in various communities. Her work in implementing preventive measures and control of cysticercosis are contained in the Official Mexican Standard issued in 1994.

Dr Flisser Steinbruch has participated in the development and application of immunological diagnostic methods for clinical support, through the standardisation of tests that gradually began to improve results to detect antibodies in blood.

She also stressed that the idea that the cysticerci can stay in fruits and vegetables should be discarded, such as strawberries or lettuce that grow at ground level and can be irrigated with wastewater.

27 years ago, Dr Flisser Steinbruch and her brother Manuel created the Lola and Igo Flisser-PUIS Award, which annually recognises the best doctoral thesis in the area of parasitology. "The award is named after my parents," she said.

The Carlos Slim Health Prize has been awarded since 2007 to projects aimed at generating innovative solutions dedicated to positively impacting the health of the population of Mexico and Latin America.

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