Bacillus subtilis strain engineered for treatment of soil-transmitted helminth diseases

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2013 Sep;79(18):5527-32. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01854-13. Epub 2013 Jul 8.


Soil-transmitted helminths (hookworms, whipworms, and large roundworms) are agents of intestinal roundworm diseases of poverty that infect upwards of 2 billion people worldwide. A great challenge in treating these diseases is the development of anthelmintic therapeutics that are inexpensive, can be produced in great quantity, and are capable of delivery under varied and adverse environmental conditions. A potential solution to this challenge is the use of live bacteria that are acceptable for human consumption, e.g., Bacillus subtilis, and that can be engineered with therapeutic properties. In this study, we expressed the Bacillus thuringiensis anthelmintic protein Cry5B in a bacterial strain that has been used as a model for live bacterial therapy, Bacillus subtilis PY79. PY79 transformed with a Cry5B expression plasmid (PY79-Cry5B) is able to express Cry5B from the endogenous B. thuringiensis cry5B promoter. During sporulation of PY79-Cry5B, Cry5B is packaged as a crystal. Furthermore, Cry5B produced in PY79 is bioactive, with a 50% lethal concentration (LC50) of 4.3 μg/ml against the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans. PY79-Cry5B was a significantly effective therapeutic in experimental Ancylostoma ceylanicum hookworm infections of hamsters. A single 10-mg/kg (0.071 μmol/kg of body weight) dose of Cry5B administered as a Cry5B-PY79 spore crystal lysate achieved a 93% reduction in hookworm burdens, which is superior on a molar level to reductions seen with clinically used anthelmintics. Given that a bacterial strain such as this one can be produced cheaply in massive quantities, our results demonstrate that the engineering and delivery of live bacterial strains have great potential to treat a significant contributor to poverty worldwide, namely, hookworm disease and other soil-transmitted helminthiasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibiosis*
  • Bacillus subtilis / genetics
  • Bacillus subtilis / growth & development*
  • Bacillus thuringiensis Toxins
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Biological Therapy / methods*
  • Cricetinae
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Endotoxins / genetics
  • Endotoxins / metabolism*
  • Helminthiasis / therapy*
  • Hemolysin Proteins / genetics
  • Hemolysin Proteins / metabolism*
  • Intestinal Diseases / therapy*
  • Intestinal Diseases, Parasitic
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Bacillus thuringiensis Toxins
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Endotoxins
  • Hemolysin Proteins
  • insecticidal crystal protein, Bacillus Thuringiensis

Supplementary concepts

  • Intestinal helminthiasis