The disease, which kills a million cattle a year in East and Central Africa, has had a devastating impact on rural areas ?such as Maasai tribal communities in Kenya ?where cattle play a crucial role in the local society and economies. The fever is caused by the parasite Theileria parva, whose genome is analyzed in the Science paper.
The study results from an unusual five-year research collaboration between two leading U.S. and African laboratories ?The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) of Rockville, Maryland, and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) of Nairobi, Kenya.
That innovative U.S./African partnership has enriched the quality of African scientific research while also helping researchers better understand the parasite and the disease it causes. In addition, the unusual biology of the parasite is shedding light into aspects of human cancer biology.
TIGR's president, Claire M. Fraser, says the project shows how North-South research collaborations can be effective and can benefit scientific partners on all sides. "This unique partnership has given a boost to the goal of developing a vaccine against a disease that has had a severe impact on so many East African communities," Fraser says.
Carlos Seré, the director-general of ILRI, says that mapping the T. parva genome represents a significant step toward the ambitious goal of developing a genomics based sub-unit vaccine to control this protozoan pathogen. "Such an achievement would be a major breakthrough for vaccine development and would increase the hope for tackling other protozoan diseases," he says.
East Coast fever, which is endemic in several African countries, was first recognized about a century ago as a parasitic disease. The disease became