NIAID awards grant to rapidly sequence the malaria mosquito genome

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) today announced a $9 million award to help reveal the genetic secrets of malaria, a complex disease responsible for up to 3 million deaths worldwide each year. Through the grant to Celera Genomics Group, NIAID has expanded its efforts to determine the genetic blueprint of Anopheles gambiae, a mosquito species that transmits the malaria parasite to people. As part of an international consortium of A. gambiae researchers and genome sequencing centers, Celera scientists will help sequence the mosquito genome and make the information freely available to the scientific community. Celera anticipates completing the project next spring.

Malaria is caused by parasites of the genus Plasmodium. The disease strikes 300 to 500 million people annually, 90 percent of who live in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 40 percent of the world's population lives in areas where malaria naturally occurs.

Malaria parasites undergo a complex life cycle; to thrive and spread they must spend parts of their lives in both humans and mosquitoes. To learn more about how the parasite, mosquitoes and humans interact, researchers will study the Anopheles genome along with the recently deciphered human genome and the soon-to-be-completed DNA sequence of the deadliest malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. The three genome sequences will provide scientists with a unique opportunity to study the natural history of malaria. For the first time, researchers will have the complete genetic information on an infectious organism, its natural host, and the insect that transmits the disease from person to person.

"This initiative will give us the pieces to an incredibly complex puzzle," says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. "By analyzing and comparing the genomes of all three organisms, researchers will have a wealth of new information for understanding malaria and how it is spread, and for use in developing

Contact: Sam Perdue
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

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