According to the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, the whipworm is the world’s third most common worm infection, affecting some 800 million people worldwide, particularly in warm, humid, tropical climates.

An adult Trichuris female human whipworm/CDC
An adult Trichuris female human whipworm/CDC

Most of those affected are children in the developing world, whose physical and mental development is stunted by these gastrointestinal parasites.  The whipworms affect their ability to learn and therefore have a long-term impact on the social and economic situations of some of the world’s poorest people.

Although the whipworm species Trichuris trichiura is known to inhabit both non-human primates and humans, little is known about the parasite. Indeed, until a recent study by Ria Ghai, a doctoral student in biology at McGill, it was widely assumed that a single species was capable of infecting both primates and humans.  But Ghai has discovered that there are three genetically distinct groups of whipworms – and only one of  the three  appears to be transmissible between humans and non-human primates. It is important information for public health officers around the world.

Read the rest of the McGill news release HERE

Read the study on PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases HERE