Scientist discovers potential weapon to use against roundworms

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A scientist at the University of New Hampshire may have recently discovered a new method of monitoring and eliminating roundworms, which are parasitic nematodes that damage the annual global crop by an estimated $100 billion.

The new method interrupts the reproduction and motility of the roundworms, potentially giving farmers a better way to safely control the agricultural pests. Rick Cote, professor and chairman of the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Biomedical Sciences and Research at the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station, discovered that the phosphodiesterase enzyme (PDE) is a possible weapon to attack roundworm infestations in crops such as cotton, corn, soybeans, rice, potatoes and wheat.

In light of Cote's discovery, the university has filed for a patent.

“When we take a compound that inhibits a specific member of the PDE enzyme family and apply it to nonparasitic nematodes, the chemical can slow down their locomotion and impair their ability to sense food in their environment,” Cote said. “In the case of the harmful root-knot nematode, these PDE inhibitors can prevent them from infecting plant roots.

“Our research team is well-positioned to identify which PDEs are the best targets for pharmacological disruption of the nematode life cycle,” Cote said. “What we currently lack are the drug-discovery resources of a large pharmaceutical or agrichemical company. We are optimistic that the ecological, public health and economic benefits will drive this work toward the successful development of new compounds that precisely target plant parasitic nematodes without adverse effects on the agricultural ecosystem: farmers, crops and wildlife.”

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University of New Hampshire

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