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Four Institutes Sequence Three Major Parasite Genomes, Identify Core of 6,200 Conserved Genes

NEW YORK, July 14 (GenomeWeb News) - Scientists from four major research institutes have sequenced and compared the genomes of three dangerous parasites, establishing that the protist causes of African sleeping sickness, Chagas disease, and leishmaniasis share a "core" of similar genes.


The sequencing and analysis were conducted by scientists at the Institute for Genomic Research, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, and the Karolinska Institutet.


The three parasites are: Trypanosoma brucei, which causes African trypaonosomiasis, or sleeping sickness; Trypanosoma cruzi, the cause of Chagas disease; and Leishmania major, which causes leishmaniasis and kala azar, a skin disease and an internal disease, respectively.


According to the studies, which will be published in the July 15 issue of Science, the three parasites share a similar "core" of 6,200 conserved genes.


"This common core of genes is extremely important because it may provide targets for a new generation of drugs that might fight all three parasites, which threaten millions of people worldwide," Najib El-Sayed, a TIGR molecular biologist, first author of two of the articles, and senior author of an upcoming article concerning the parasites, said in a statement.


The three diseases are immensely dangerous to humans, according to the World Health Organization: Chagas afflicts as many as 18 million people and threatens about 100 million worldwide; sleeping sickness infects as many as 500,000 people and theatens more than 60 million, and leishmaniasis, which also has other causes, threatens 300 million or more people.


Sequencing and analysis of T. cruzi was funded by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the major sources of funding for the studies of T. brucei and L. major were the Wellcome Trust and the NIAID.

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