Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Two more malaria parasite genomes

In this week's Nature, the complete genome sequences of two additional species of malaria parasites, Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium knowlesi are reported. These two species both are capable of infecting humans - in fact, P. vivax is probably the most common malaria parasite in people, though does not share the high mortality rate of its cousin, Plasmodium falciparum, whose genome was published in 2002. P. knowlesi has recently gained more interest in the biomedical community as this parasite that was thought to use macaques as its hosts was found to infect humans at a much higher rate than ever thought. These two genomes will mark a significant stride forward toward being able to do real comparative biology of these parasites and to use key differences in the life cycle and other biological factors toward perhaps finding new drug and/or vaccine therapies. The P. knowlesi genome was completed largely by a team from Sanger and congrats to my my friend, Jane Carlton, formerly of TIGR and now on the faculty of the NYU School of Medicine and her team for their huge accomplishment on the P. vivax genome (and thanks for the acknowledgment in the paper -- I did the phylogeny for Jane that's in the supplemental methods.)

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