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Genetic Code Of Chromosome Of Malaria Parasite Deciphered

A multicenter team of researchers, supported in part by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has determined the complete genetic sequence of a chromosome of the most deadly malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. This advance may help identify new targets for anti-malaria drugs and vaccines, which are badly needed to fight a disease that claims up to 3 million lives each year.

The new data are reported in the Nov. 6, 1998 issue of the journal Science by Malcolm J. Gardner, Ph.D., of The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR, Rockville, Md.), Navy Captain Stephen L. Hoffman, M.D., of the Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC, Bethesda, Md.), and their colleagues at NMRC, TIGR, New York University, Johns Hopkins University, and the National Center for Biotechnology Information of the National Library of Medicine at NIH.

Drs. Gardner, Hoffman and their collaborators sequenced chromosome 2 of P. falciparum. Theirs is the first report to describe the complete genetic sequence of a parasite chromosome.

Project funding was initiated by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of NIH and the NIH Office of Research on Minority Health, and was subsequently augmented by the U.S. Department of Defense. An international consortium of agencies, including NIAID, is supporting efforts to sequence the other 13 chromosomes of this parasite.

"This sequence information promises to provide new leads to fighting malaria, a disease that exacts a huge burden worldwide, in human and economic terms," says Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., NIAID director. "This sequencing effort is part of a broad-based NIH strategy to control malaria and other important diseases that threaten global health, including tuberculosis and AIDS."

"This study demonstrates the feasibility of sequencing the entire genome of Plasmodium falciparum," adds Michael Gottlieb, Ph.D., Parasite Biology Program Officer at NIAID. "The researchers have identified more than 200 genes, many
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Contact: Greg Folkers
gfolkers@nih.gov
301-435-8580
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
5-Nov-1998


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