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Scientists crack the genome of the parasite causing trichomoniasis

Scientists have finally deciphered the genome of the parasite causing trichomoniasis, a feat that is already providing new approaches to improve the diagnosis and treatment of this sexually transmitted disease. According to the World Health Organization trichomoniasis affects an estimated 170 million people a year and is an under-diagnosed global health problem.

Led by Jane Carlton, Ph.D., an Associate Professor in the Department of Medical Parasitology at New York University School of Medicine, the team of scientists took four years to crack the surprisingly large genome of the single-celled parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. They published the draft sequence of the parasite's genome in the Jan. 12, 2007, issue of the journal Science.

"It is a nasty bug," says Dr. Carlton. For example, in women, the parasite latches onto the vaginal lining and forms tendril-like projections into the tissue. The parasite also secretes a series of proteins that destroy vaginal epithelial cells, which make up the surface of vaginal tissue.

Women infected by the parasite can experience genital itching, vaginal discharge, and sometimes pain during urination or intercourse and an inflamed cervix. Acute infections are associated with pelvic inflammatory disease. Trichomoniasis increases susceptibility to HIV, the virus causing AIDS. Pregnant women with trichomoniasis risk delivering their babies pre-term or with a lowered birth weight. In men, trichomoniasis symptoms are usually mild such as a burning sensation after urination. The parasite can cause urogenital infections such as urethritis and prostatitis.

Worldwide, Trichomonas vaginalis infects an estimated 170 million people a year. These numbers are estimates because patients are not officially tallied. In the U.S., for example, physicians must report cases of syphilis, gonorrhea or chlamydia to local and state health authorities who report the figures to the Centers for Disease Cont
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Contact: Jennifer Berman
Jennifer.Berman@nyumc.org
212-404-3555
New York University Medical Center and School of Medicine
11-Jan-2007


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