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UK's Institute for Animal Health to Sequence Virus-Carrying Midge Genome

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Institute for Animal Health in Pirbright, UK has received a £680,000 ($1.1 million) grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council to sequence the genome of an insect that spreads viral diseases among livestock.

BBSRC said today that the funding will enable IAH scientists to conduct a complete genome sequence and to study the genome of a species of biting midge, Culicoides sonorensis, to find out how it spreads diseases such as bluetongue and African horse sickness.

The project will create the first complete genome sequence of a Culicoides midge species, of which there are 1,500 around the world.

"We know that some midges are better at transmitting viruses than others and we have good evidence to suggest that this is down to differences in their genes; the genome sequence will enable us to say which genes are responsible," Mark Fife, head of genetics and genomics at IAH and the project's leader, said in a statement.

Under the project, IAH researchers will collaborate with scientists at the European Bioinformatics Institute, or EMBL-EBI, and the work will be supported by facilities and expertise at the BBSRC Genome Analysis Centre.

IAH currently houses midge colonies in its insectary, and much is known about their ability to transmit viruses, BBSRC said. This project will use that resource to discover which genetic variations may influence the relationship between the insect and the virus.

"EMBL-EBI's contribution to the project will be in the organization and interpretation of the large quantity of data produced, and disseminating it to the scientific community through the Ensembl Metazoa portal," added EMBL-EBI Team Leader Paul Kersey. "Ensembl already contains the genomes of cattle and sheep, so we are in a unique position to build an open, accessible, and high-quality resource for this research community."

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