The Aroian Group studies human/animal parasitic nematodes as well as bacterial toxins.
Our main goal is to discover new and superior treatments for human soil-transmitted helminths (intestinal nematode parasites). These parasites, aka hookworm, whipworm, and Ascaris (large roundworm) infect upwards of 2 billion people in the world and are leading causes of childhood stunting (physical/cognitive), malutrition, adverse preganancy outcomes, loss of productivity... worldwide. For example, when once prevalent in the United States, it is estimated that hookworm-infected US children made 40% less money when they grew up than uninfected peers. These parasites are major causes of poverty worldwide. In addition, the drugs we have now to treat these infections are inadequate to treat some of the parasites and inadequate to eradicate all of them. We are discovering and developing new de-worming (anthelmintic) compounds with superior characteristics to those currently in use and developing novel delivery strategies to make these compounds available widely and cheaply in the developing world. We are also studying how anthelmintic compounds work and how parasite resistance can be overcome.
We are also studying how these parasites interact with their host. In particular, we are interested in studying how these parasites modulate the host and host immune system in a way that might control autoimmune diseases.
Another group in the laboratory uses the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans to study how bacterial pore-forming toxins work and how the innate immune system protects against bacterial toxin attack. Since pore-forming toxins are by far the most common mechanism pathogenic bacteria use to attack us, these studies have important implications in the control of bacterial pathogens and diseases, such as those caused by Staphyloccocus and Streptococcus.