A researcher at Northwestern College in Orange City has won a 200-thousand dollar grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to continue his research on drugs that help get rid of parasitic worms.
Ralph Davis has been researching nematodes or roundworms, for 25 years. Davis says the worms infect pigs and cattle and sheep around the world and also infect people. He says a worm called asceris infects one-and-half-billion people worldwide.
Davis says he’s trying to help drug companies develop new drugs to treat the worms as the worms adapt to the old drugs. He says there are some very useful drugs, but there already some outbreaks of resistance to the drugs, particularly in veterinary medicine. Davis, who is an associate professor of biology, focuses on the nervous system of the worms.
Davis says he uses neurophysiological techniques to hook fine electrodes up to the nerve and muscle cells of the nematodes and then he tries to determine how the drugs impact the nervous systems of the worms. Davis says his research is part of the very early stages of finding ways to improve drugs.
Davis says it takes an average of 15 years to bring a drug from initial discovery to the store shelf and he says it can cost millions of dollars. Davis says the worms get into the intestinal tracts of humans and animals and can consume up to one third of the food the host eats — leading malnutrition.