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Genome of deadly amoeba shows surprising complexity, evidence of lateral gene transfer

he genome sequenced is allowing the development of "new diagnostic tests that help distinguish the most deadly substrains of the parasite."

Dr. Alok Bhattacharya, a collaborator at the School of Life Sciences at India's Jawaharlal Nehru University, says having the genome sequence "will help to identify new drug and vaccine targets" and also may help researchers understand why the disease hits only a small fraction of those who are hosts to the parasite. "Intestinal infections are one of the major health problems in developing countries and the number of people who are infected with amoeba cysts is enormous," he says.

Typically, those cysts are transmitted when people ingest contaminated food or water. The disease can cause liver damage but more often causes dysentery, a severe diarrhea that is often associated with blood in the feces. Unchecked, the diarrhea associated with the disease can be fatal, especially in children. One field study in Bangladesh found that E. histolytica infection occurred at least once in 80 percent of 300 children. Over a period of four years, about a third of the children suffered from amebic colitis, an ulceration of the stomach lining.

Petri says the genome data will help researchers find more about what makes some people innately resistant to infection by E. histolytica, and what acquired immune responses can protect people from re-infection. Says Petri: "The genome project has spawned rapid discovery of the parasite's mechanisms for replication, gene expression, motility, metabolism, and the killing of host cells."

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The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) is a not-for-profit research institute based in Rockville, Maryland. TIGR, which sequenced the first complete genome of a free-living organism, has been at the forefront of the genomic revolution since the institute was founded in 1992. The Institute's scientists conduct research involving the structural, functional, and comparative analysi
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Source:The Institute for Genomic Research


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