Genome of Malaria-Causing Parasite Sequenced: Even When On Different Continents, Organism Features Same Mutations
This thin film Giemsa stained micrograph reveals a mature Plasmodium vivax trophozoite. (Credit: CDC/ Steven Glenn, Laboratory & Consultation Division)
ScienceDaily (Sep. 6, 2012) — Scientists at Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute have discovered that the parasite that causes the most common form of malaria share the same genetic variations -- even when the organisms are separated across continents.
The discovery raises concerns that mutations to resist existing medications could spread worldwide, making global eradication efforts even more difficult.
The researchers, including Cleveland-based David Serre and Peter Zimmerman, Didier Menard (Institut Pasteur-Cambodia) and Arsene Ratsimbasoa (Madagascar National Malaria Control Program) are the first to sequence the genome of the parasite Plasmodium vivax, taken from patients at coverage needed to verify genome-wide DNA sequence variation. The genome contains all of the organism's inheritable information.
The ability to sequence is crucial to understanding the hard-to-study parasite, which annually causes up to 250 million cases of malaria and places an economic burden, mostly on the poor, in excess of $1.4 billion by some estimates.