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WIU to Host Regional Parasitology Conference

May 25, 2010

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MACOMB, IL - - The Western Illinois University Department of Biological Sciences will host biologists from throughout the Midwest discussing their research on parasites such as amoebas, worms, ticks, fleas and more as part of the 62nd Annual Midwestern Conference of Parasitologists (AMCOP 62) from Thursday-Saturday, June 3-5 in the University Union.

Shawn Meagher, associate professor and program officer for the meeting, explained that research in parasitology is important because parasites affect more than three-fourths of all people, as well as crops, livestock and pets.

AMCOP is a regional affiliate of the American Association of Parasitologists, a national organization of parasitologists with more than 15,000 members. The AMCOP Symposium will be held at 1:30 p.m. Friday, June 4. The topic is "Can Parasitic Worms Treat Autoimmune Disorders?"

"Autoimmune disorders are much more common in developed countries than in developing countries," explained Meagher. "The 'hygiene hypothesis' suggests that this is because parasitic infections are rare in developed countries like the U.S., and as a result our immune systems attack our bodies instead."

Two invited speakers will discuss their research on the possibility of using purposeful infection with worms to reduce autoimmune symptoms.

David Elliott, M.D., Ph.D. in the Department of Internal Medicine and interim director of the gastroenterology and hepatology division at the University of Iowa, will discuss inflammatory gut disorders (such as Crohn's Disease) in his talk, "Helminths: Do They Belong in Our Immune Ecosystem?"

John Fleming, M.D., professor and multiple sclerosis director in the Department of Neurology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will discuss "Parasites as Old Friends: Multiple Sclerosis."

AMCOP was last hosted at WIU in 1982 by Paul Nollen, now-retired professor of biological sciences, as the program officer.

For more information, contact Meagher at (309) 298-2409 or, or visit

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