Research projects

The laboratory conducts basic research in two gastrointestinal parasites: Giardia duodenalis and Trichinella spiralis.

Giardia duodenalisTrichinella spiralisResearch in GiardiaResearch in Trichinella

Giardia duodenalis is a common intestinal parasite in humans worldwide that causes giardiosis which is one of the most frequently diagnosed waterborne diseases and is considered a major public health problem particularly in developing countries

The work that we carry out in our research group includes the study of basic aspects of host-pathogen interaction. We are particularly interested in identifying parasite molecules which are expressed and secreted during the interaction of parasite with epithelial cells such as proteases and other virulence factors. Also we have addressed the analysis of the damage caused by these factors at the intestinal epithelium in order to understand at the molecular level the pathogenic mechanisms that occur during experimental giardiasis. These studies will define parasite components that induce epithelial level damage and will allow the design of strategies for the control and prevention of this infection in humans and in animals that potentially can transmit the infection to human.

Another study in our group t is the analysis of the molecular mechanisms involved in the process of encystation of Giardia.  In one hand we have studied the inductive phase of encystation in order to identify proteins involved in this phase and on the other we are interested in developing strategies to block the conversion of infective cysts to trophozoites. Particularly we are interested on the identification and characterization of molecules of this parasite involved in signaling pathways and that have differential properties in mammalian counterparts. In this context we have characterized isoforms of the protein kinase C (PKC) and determined their distribution and participation in the inductive stage of encystment. These studies will allow the identification and the development of compounds that interact specifically with selected subdomains of these proteins and thereby to inhibit this process in this parasite.

Unlike current trends in the search for new synthetic compounds, our group is interested in testing the effect of natural products such as garlic compounds Thioalyl on Giardia. Our particular interest has been focused on determining the capacity of allyl-sulphides, of allyl, tiosulfinatos-and allyl cysteine to carry out exchange reactions of type thiol-disulfide with proteins of G. duodenalis, considering that these components may be promising for the treatment of giardiasis. Thus these compounds could be used to control giardiasis preventing  the development of resistance in this parasite. Also its production   cost may be low  when  considering its use on a massive scale.
Our group has also approached the study of the mechanisms involved in the induction of resistance to drugs commonly used in the treatment of giardiasis. For this purpose we have obtained resistant G. duodenalis strains and clones to different drugs and these have been used to  identified both mechanisms  and molecules  that are involved, particularly, in the resistance to albendazole. These studies will allow us to define very important processes in the induction of resistance and will contribute to develop a solid platform for the development of other useful methods for the treatment of the giardiasis.