AsianScientist (Jan. 24, 2012) – Scientists have cracked the genetic code and predicted some high priority drug targets for the blood parasite Schistosoma haematobium, which is linked to bladder cancer and HIV/AIDS.
In research published online in the latest issue of the journal Nature Genetics, an international team, led by Dr. Neil Young and Professor Robin Gasser from the University of Melbourne and in collaboration with BGI-Shenzhen, sequenced the nuclear genome of Schistosoma haematobium from a single pair of tiny worms.
The worms are transmitted from freshwater snails to humans, where they dwell in blood vessels and release eggs that become embedded in the bladder wall, causing chronic immune-mediated disease and cancer.
Schistosoma haematobium is one of three related species of Schistosoma to be sequenced, but is the most devastating, particularly because of its link to cancer and AIDS.
The parasite is also the cause of the insidious urogenital disease schistosomiasis haematobia in more than 112 million people in Africa, recognized by the World Health Organization as one of the most socioeconomically devastating diseases besides malaria.
“This genome was the missing piece of a puzzle in schistosomiasis research. By revealing the genetic blueprint of Schistosoma haematobium, we now have a biological road map of the three major parasite species responsible for human schistosomiasis globally,” Dr. Young said.
“Most importantly, the genome of Schistosoma haematobium will offer insights into how the intimate relationship between a parasite and its human host can induce malignant bladder cancer,” he added.
As there are no vaccines and only one available drug to treat a Schistosoma haematobium infection, Dr. Young hopes that having the parasite’s genetic blueprint may someday lead to the design of new disease interventions.
The article can be found at: Young ND et al. (2012) Whole-genome sequence of Schistosoma haematobium.
Source: University of Melbourne; Photo: Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases.
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