Genome sequences for three deadly parasites provide foundation for new drugs

An international consortium of scientists has unraveled the genomes of three deadly parasites, and these genome sequences will be published in the July 15, 2005, edition of the premier research journal Science. The sequences of these related parasites which cause African sleeping sickness, Chagas disease and leishmaniasis provide a foundation for developing much-needed new drugs to combat these infectious diseases that affect millions of people around the world.

Seattle Biomedical Research Institute (SBRI) researchers Peter Myler, Ph.D., and Ken Stuart, Ph.D., along with scientists at The Institute for Genome Research (TIGR) in Rockville, MD, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the Hinxton, U.K., and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, led the sequencing efforts and authored the four resulting papers. Myler and Stuart also serve as faculty at the School of Public Health and Community Medicine and the School of Medicine at the University of Washington, with which SBRI has a formal affiliation.

Three of the papers detail the genomes of Trypanosoma brucei, Trypanosoma cruzi, and Leishmania major, while a fourth paper offers a comparative analysis of the genome sequences of the parasites. Cumulatively, the papers have nearly 250 authors from 46 organizations representing 21 different countries on six continents. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, and The Wellcome Trust provided funding for the sequencing.

Collectively referred to as the "TriTryps" because each pathogen is a trypanosomatid, Trypanosoma brucei, Trypanosoma cruzi, and Leishmania major are the causative agents, respectively, of African sleeping sickness, Chagas disease and leishmaniasis. More than 500 million people are at risk for one or more of these diseases, which represent more than 4 million disability adjusted life years (DALYs), a unit for measuring the global burden of disease.


Contact: Lee Schoentrup
Seattle Biomedical Research Institute

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