Evidence from the lab of Raffi Aroian, PhD, shows that short-term human hookworm infection, even at low levels, can cause rapid, acute and measurable cognitive impairments in spatial memory among a mammalian animal model. These findings, published in Scientific Reports, highlight the global importance of hookworm elimination and suggest that additional, specific, spatial memory studies be carried out.
“These parasites have a real impact on brain function in rodents, independent of long-term developmental delays, that can be observed very quickly after initial infection,” said Dr. Aroian, professor of molecular medicine. “This means we’ve very likely been underestimating the impact these parasites have on the brain in both children and adults, but particularly in very young children.”
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Hookworms are a species of parasites that live in the small intestine and infect via the skin, circulation and lung. Hookworm infection is most common in the developing world where proper hygiene and sanitation are a challenge. Long-term infection is known to cause severe developmental and cognitive impairments. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that infection occurs in 576 million to 740 million people worldwide.
Read more at University of Massachusetts Medical School