The Harnett Labs
Parasitic worms, known as helminths, can live within people for several decades without causing any severe disease as they have evolved several strategies to avoid being killed by our immune systems. They are so successful at this that they, and the molecules they produce, are being investigated as novel therapies for ‘immune disorders' such as rheumatoid arthritis.

​​Immune disorders are diseases that occur when the immune system accidently attacks the wrong target. This can cause autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, where the immune system attacks the body’s tissues, or allergic diseases, where the immune system attacks harmless environmental particles like pollen. These diseases are more prevalent in developed countries where we have mostly eradicated childhood infections, including helminths. In developing countries where helminth infections are very common there is very little autoimmune or allergic disease. This has led to the formation of the Hygiene Hypothesis which proposes that a lack of exposure to infections early in life has led to the increase in incidence of immune disorders.

The Harnett labs at the University of Glasgow and Strathclyde, led by Professors Margaret and William Harnett respectively, are investigating the therapeutic potential of ES-62, a molecule produced by Acanthocheilonema viteae, which is a worm that lives in rodents. We have shown that ES-62 can inhibit the development of rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and asthma and are currently developing novel drugs based on ES-62 called small molecules analogues (SMAs) to treat these diseases.

Would you take a drug made from a parasite? Please take our short survey to let us know how you feel about our research in the link below!
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Would you like to know more about how parasitic worms can be used to develop novel drugs? We would be very interested in knowing what you think about our research.

Please, contact us by email,, leave us a message on our facebook page, Drugs from Bugs, or follow us on Twitter @HarnettLabs to follow our research progress and public engagement activities.

If you suffer from any of these diseases, would you be happy with drugs based on parasitic worms products if they are safer than your current medications? Your feedback is much appreciated.