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UCSF researchers help crack parasite genome, identify drug leads
Date:7/15/2009

Two UCSF research papers this week are marking major breakthroughs in the effort to tackle schistosomiasis (bilharzia), a tropical disease that infects more than 200 million people worldwide and causes long-term debilitating illness and occasional paralysis or death.

One paper documents a multinational success, led by a team at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, in England, in sequencing the genome of the Schistosoma mansoni blood fluke, which has taken nearly a decade to achieve, researchers said.

Three UCSF researchers contributed to that research by identifying and characterizing the parasite's complement of proteolytic enzymes, known as the "degradome," which in many other biomedical contexts has provided valuable drug targets. Findings are published in the July 16, 2009 issue of "Nature" and can be found online at www.nature.com.

The second paper, published July 14, 2009 in "PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases" and online at www.plosntds.org, documents the UCSF development of a medium-throughput screening system for the schistosome parasite and the discovery of a range of "hit" and "lead" compounds from a collection of approved drugs that may quickly translate into therapies to combat the disease.

The work was conducted jointly by the Sandler Center for Basic Research in Parasitic Diseases and the Small Molecule Discovery Center, both of which are UCSF centers affiliated with the California Institute of Quantitative Biosciences (QB3).

Just one drug is currently widely available to treat schistosomiasis, which researchers say poses the risk of encouraging the parasite's drug resistance as aid organizations extend the current medication to more infected populations, according to Conor R. Caffrey, PhD, a research scientist in the UCSF Department of Pathology, who co-authored both papers and was senior author on the PLoS paper
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Contact: Kristen Bole
kbole@pubaff.ucsf.edu
415-476-2557
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert

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