City scientist solves snail fever puzzle

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A CITY student has solved an 80-year mystery of how humans build up resistance to a deadly fever caused by snails.

Kate Mitchell studied snail fever – a neglected tropical disease that affects more than 100 million people in sub-Saharan Africa – as part of her PhD at Edinburgh University’s School of Biological Sciences.

People are infected when worm larvae, released into freshwater ponds and rivers by infected snails, burrow through their skin.

Snail fever is particularly common in children, and can affect growth, development, and cognition, and damage internal organs. It also kills around 150,000 people every year due to kidney failure and other effects.

Miss Mitchell, 29, found that the body’s immune response was only triggered once the parasitic worms, which can live in human blood for up to 30 years, start to die.

She said: “This study will help further research to inform the optimum duration and intensity of drug programmes to target the disease, while ensuring an individual’s ability to build up immunity to it is not hampered, as well as help research to find vaccines.”