Todays issue of the scientific journal Science presents research on the genetic make-up and biology of the parasite Giardia lamblia that ultimately may lead to better diagnosis and treatment of the diarrhea disease giardiasis, which affects 200 million people every year. It may also bring an understanding of several vital biological processes in humans.
Giardia lamblia is an intestinal parasite that exists all over the world and causes diarrhea. Above all, it affects young individuals, and in the third world the infection is extremely common. At present roughly 200 million people are infected with Giardia; Sweden has 1,500 cases each year, with infection spreading at day-care centers and via polluted water. Recently the Norwegian city of Bergen experienced a major water-borne epidemic, with 1,300 people infected by the parasite. Young animals can also get Giardia infections, which entails major costs for agriculture. It is not known why Giardia makes people sick, nor why some people are more susceptible than others.
Todays issue of Science includes an article by Swedish and American researchers describing the genetic sequence and biology of Giardia lamblia and comparing it with other organisms. Among other things, the article shows that the parasite differs in several ways from other organisms when it comes to the copying and reading of DNA. The parasite also lacks several common signal proteins, but, on the other hand, it has many enzymes of the protein kinase and protein phosphate type whose functions are still unknown.
Research on the parasite will be radically changed, and new methods that were previously unusable can now be applied. This means that there is great potential for finding new medicines, vaccines, and diagnostic tools much more quickly and efficiently. This opens new paths for finding treatment for this severe disease, says Associate Professor Staffan Svrd, Uppsala University, co-author of the study being pu
|Contact: Staffan Svrd|