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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

South Florida International Collaboration Produces Innovative Weapon against Parasites

Dr. Ricardo Izurieta, associate professor in the College of Public Health’s Department of Global Health, has embarked on a collaborative effort aimed at preventing the spread of intestinal parasites.

His new international and interdisciplinary collaboration has paired him with Dr. P. Ravi Selvaganapathy of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Selvaganapathy is Canada Research Chair in Biomicrofluidics in McMaster’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.

The project, coordinated by the World Intellectual Property Organization, connects Izurieta’s research findings with Selvaganapathy’s mechanical design expertise to develop a device capable of filtering particulates, specifically parasite eggs, from environmental samples. The aim, Izurieta said, is two-fold: prevention of intestinal parasite infection.

The research side of the equation involves collecting samples from composting latrines, which are common in agricultural areas in Central and South America.

“It is very time-consuming,” Dr. Izurieta said of the necessary flotation-filtration method. “One sample can take one day to process.”

Dr. Izurieta earlier developed a means of neutralizing parasite eggs using urea-produced ammonia. He then set out to devise a faster means of detecting worm eggs in the environment. Dedicated to “sharing innovation in the fight against neglected tropical diseases,” WIPO then matched the two professors for the project.

Over the course of numerous conference calls and Skype connections, Dr. Izurieta said, they found great compatibility for their collective ideas and a common passion for what they could produce.

The result is a device that uses electricity to animate particles according to their size. Particulates as minute as two microns are quickly detectable, as are worms as large as 400 microns, Dr. Izurieta said, adding that the device will be particularly useful in detecting Ascaris eggs, which are a particularly prevalent source of parasitosis in children around the world. Moreover, it will be practical.

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