Interview with Jodie Chandler - investigating the evolution of parasitic worms from their non-parasitic ancestors
POSTED: 3 August 2017
Jodie Chandler is a Research Officer at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research. She received a travel grant from Research For Life to present her research findings at the Hydra Conference on Molecular and Cellular Biology of Helminth Parasites in Greece in 2017.
Your research or area of study?
Genetic and molecular parasitology of hookworms
Can you tell us about your passion for researching this?
Hookworm infection affects almost 1 billion people worldwide. It is the leading cause of anaemia and thus causes chronic fatigue, school attendance falls and social and economic development is significantly stunted in communities with a high burden of hookworm infection. The extensive nature of this debilitating diseases, coupled with the unique and complex immune system that hookworm induces in a host is what ignited my passion for this research.
Why are you doing this particular research?
I am involved in this research because I am passionate about it. Infections such as hookworm, malaria, turberculosis all fall under the “neglected tropical diseases” category. They are diseases that do not affect the developed world, therefore they are poorly studied as funding is limited. If any of my work is able to improve our understanding of the basic biology of hookworms and push forward the field of combating this disease I would feel accomplished.
What is involved – describe the work, who you work with, where and how long it will take?
This area of research incorporates many diverse skills. As the genetic composition of our parasitic worm has not been defined we are utilising innovative DNA sequencing technology to establish the worms genetic code. From here we can use this code to start asking some fundamental questions about the worms evolution and interaction with the host immune system, using molecular techniques. We have developed a system which allows us to look at each stage of the parasites lifecycle by adapting techniques used by researchers who look at a non-parasitic worm. Thus we are aiming to bridge the divide between parasitic and non-parasitic worm research (and researchers) which until now has been starkly absent, due to the complex differences between them. We are collaborating with groups all over the world, including Australia, France, the US and Scotland. This work is still in its infancy, we are generating a platform in which we hope other scientists will utilise in the decades to come.
What is exciting you in what you are discovering?
This is work that has not been done before- and generating this knowledge around the hookworm will be a resource that all researchers can utilise in the future. Molecular and genetic immunology studies are extremely powerful and provide great insight into the field of immunoparasitology. Our work has the potential to be instrumental in paving the way for next generation studies of hookworm and this I find extremely exciting.
What do you hope to achieve?
I hope to develop a solid understanding of the genetics of hookworm that we can share with all researchers. With genetic knowledge we are able to start asking insightful questions that we have never been able to answer before.
What are your hopes beyond this research for the future of the study?
I hope this work will contribute to the development of an effective vaccine against human hookworm.