Biotech Updates

Genomes of Two Human Malaria Species Revealed

February 1, 2017

Scientists from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and their international collaborators have revealed the genomes of the two least common species of human malaria parasites. The genome of Plasmodium falciparum is well studied, but very little was known about Plasmodium malariae and Plasmodium ovale, which are believed to cause up to 5 per cent of malaria worldwide.

The scientists determined the genome sequences of these Plasmodium species and identified genes that could be involved in human infection and adapting to the human host. They found that up to 40 per cent of the P. malariae and P. ovale genomes contain genes that are probably involved in evading an immune response.

It was revealed that P. malariae contains two new families of genes that are similar in shape to the vital gene RH5 in P. falciparum. RH5 is essential for P. falciparum parasite to invade human red blood cells and is one of the top targets for malaria vaccine design. P. ovale actually consists of two distinct species, Plasmodium ovale wallikeri and Plasmodium ovale curtisi. The authors showed that the split between these species was ancient and occurred long before the much more virulent P. falciparum emerged.

For more details, read the news release from Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.