PHILADELPHIA -- An international team of scientists today unveiled an Internet-based database allowing genomic analysis of Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite responsible for the vast majority of malaria deaths worldwide. Developed as a collaboration between two research teams at the University of Pennsylvania, the Plasmodium genome database breaks new ground in bioinformatics by permitting detailed analysis of a genome even before its sequencing is complete.
"The release of this database is, in some respects, more important for malaria researchers than the sequencing of the human genome has been for researchers who study human disease," said David S. Roos, the Penn biology professor who has spearheaded the Plasmodium database project. "The difficulty of working with these parasites has frustrated research on new drugs and vaccines to combat malaria. The Plasmodium genome sequencing project greatly expands available information on the malaria parasite, and the PlasmoDB database provides researchers all over the world with the means to ac-cess that information."
The Plasmodium database, available as of today at http://PlasmoDB.org and on compact disc, builds upon sequencing efforts at the Institute for Genomic Research in Rockville, Md., the Naval Medical Research Center, Stanford University and Britain's Sanger Centre. That sequencing, conducted by dozens of researchers, is now at essentially the same stage of completion as the Human Genome Project.
Once thought to be on the wane, a combination of factors has brought malaria back to the forefront of human disease. More than 1 in 20 people worldwide contracted malaria last year, and more than a million, mostly children in Africa, are killed each year.
Malarial drug resistance has become a concern for public health officials in recent years; the ready availability of the Plasmodium genome sequence should speed the search for new drugs and vaccines to combat malaria. The database
Contact: Steve Bradt
University of Pennsylvania