Hello and welcome again guys, by now you might think there’s no more tongue-twisting NTDs (if you don’t know that means by now, tut tut). However, strap in guys because we’re delving on a journey requiring your mind and your nose to boot.
This seems feasible to pronounce: E-Kino-Kok-Ko-Sis right?
A bit of a tongue-twister right? Well give yourself a pat on the back. Now that we’ve got that cleared, the disease known as Echinococcosis kind of flies under-the radar in a lot of peoples’ minds. This is strange because for what it does, you’d think people would be more knowledgeable on it. However guys, have no worries for I am here to provide the wisdom in the only way I know how.
Cystic echinococcosis (aka Human Hydatid Disease) is a parasitic disease caused by tapeworms of the Echinococcus genus. The two most common forms of this disease are cystic and alveolar with up to 1 million people living with these diseases. These parasites act by first residing in dogs and foxes, then when tapeworm eggs-containing faecal matter are ingested by sheep and cattle. The parasites spread throughout the blood to invade the liver and lungs. Now my astute fellows, you might say “I get what you’re saying, but what has animals eating poop got to do with us?”, well it’s quite simple actually, humans are drawn into this through our absent-mindedness. When we dine on undercooked meat, this provides a key window for these opportunistic tapeworms to cause liver and lung cysts alongside hepatomegaly.
Regular dog deworming and controlled sheep slaughter are some suggestions for breaking the life cycle. Whilst sounding good in theory, it’s difficult to put this in practice, particularly as control programmes are costly to set up and maintain. In addition to this, cystic echinococcosis already carries a heavy economic burden in annually costing up to US$3 billion in treatment. Hence, efficient and cost-effective treatment is required to help solve this issue.
If you guys tend to be more of a visual learner, here’s a nifty diagram summarizing the life cycle of these underhanded tapeworms!. Image provided for by what-when-how.com
A Smell by Any Other Name:
Albendazole and Mebendazole currently serve as first-line treatment for cystic echinococcosis. However, up to 40% of cases don’t respond well to these drugs as they act to stabilize more so than serve as a cure. Alongside this, these compounds can yield high toxicity levels, thus stressing a need for optimal cystic echinococcosis treatment. What if I were to tell you though that something in your culinary cupboard could be what stops our liver and lungs looking like tripe?
Well, a recent study looking at cystic echinococcosis found that the phenol compound thymol showed promise as a therapeutic option in treating this parasitic disease. “But what the heck is thymol?” asked by many, answered by one. Thymol (aka 2-isopropyl-5-methylphenol for you chemistry aficionados) is a natural oil which carries multiple roles including: being a antiseptic in mouthwash, mould-killer for beekeeping and causing the distinct flavour in thyme. So the next time you make cream of celeriac soup, be sure to remember thymol’s importance ok?.
Now, the study involved dosage intervals at both 12 hours for 10 days and 24 hours for 20 days. During this, thymol was applied onto the cysts and compared against an albendazole suspension for its effects. It was found that thymol exerted greater anti-parasitic activity against larvae present with no toxicity.
This outcome comes with great delight, particularly with the flaws of the current treatment, this provides a new avenue for treating cystic echinococcosis.
Must be so mind-blowing to comprehend that the simple herb that is thyme can do more than just flavour up your food eh?
It’s powerful how innovative we can be if we seek the simplified approach to things, who would have thought that an oil used to keep our breath minty-scented could be implicated as a form of treating cystic echinococcosis, and yet here we are. The means to treat some of these diseases is less complicated than we may perceive, and with combined efforts and efficiency we can truly change the NEGLECTED into RESPECTED.