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Scientists Map Intestinal Bug's Genome

Giardia is leading cause of parasitic infections in U.S.

THURSDAY, Sept. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists have sequenced the genome of the intestinal parasite Giardia lamblia, responsible for more than 20,000 reported infections a year in the United States.

That makes giardia the most common intestinal parasite identified by public health laboratories in the country, experts note.

People contract Giardia through contact with infected stool or by drinking water contaminated with the parasite, which most often strikes hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts, as well as children in daycare. Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, bloating and abdominal cramping.

The genome was sequenced by an international team of scientists. It's described in the Sept. 28 issue of the journal Science.

Analysis of the parasite's genome has already provided more insight on the parasite's evolution and revealed possible new targets for treatment.

"Existing drugs can effectively treat people with Giardia infections, but, as with many pathogens, the concern is that the parasite will develop resistance to these medications," Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said in a prepared statement. "The Giardia lamblia genome shows us that the parasite has a large complement of unusual proteins that are potential targets for new drugs or vaccines."

The NIAID funded the effort to sequence the parasite's genome.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about Giardia infection.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, news release, Sept. 25, 2007

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