A new genetic 'barcode' for malaria parasites has been found which could be used to track and contain the spread of the disease, according to new research led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
A new genetic 'barcode' for malaria parasites has been found which could be used to track and contain the spread of the disease, according to new research led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
Malaria kills around 600,000 people per year, and increased population mobility through international air travel carries further risks of re-introducing parasites to elimination areas and dispersing drug-resistant parasites to new regions. A simple genetic marker that quickly and accurately identifies the geographic origin of infections would be a valuable tool for locating the source of outbreaks, and spotting the spread of drug-resistant parasites from Asia to Africa.
New research published in Nature Communications has found a highly predictive barcode in the genetic sequence of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum which can be used to identify the geographic origin of a parasite from a blood sample and monitor its spread.
The researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine analysed the DNA of over 700 P. falciparum malaria parasites taken from patients in 14 countries in West Africa, East Africa, South East Asia, Oceania and South America. They found several short genetic sequences which were distinct in the DNA of parasites from certain geographic regions, which allowed them to design a genetic 'barcode' to be used in identifying the source of new infections.
Lead author Dr Taane Clark, Reader in Genetic Epidemiology and Statistics at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: "Being able to determine the geographic origin of malaria parasites has enormous potential in containing drug-resistance and eliminating malaria. Our work represents a breakthrough in the genetic barcoding of P. falciparum, as it reveals very specific and accurate sequences for different geographic settings. We are currently extending the barcode to include other populations, such as India, Central America, southern Africa and the Caribbean, and plan to include genetic markers for other types malaria, such as P. vivax."
Genetic markers have proved extremely valuable in tracking and eradicating diseases, such as polio. However, previous candidates for malaria genetic barcodes have relied on identifying DNA markers found in the parasite's cell nucleus, which shows too much genetic variation between individual parasites to be used accurately.
Now for the first time, the researchers studied the DNA found in two parts of the parasite's cells outside of the nucleus. The mitochondria (the 'power houses' of the cell) and the apicolasts (used in the cell's metabolism) are only inherited through maternal lines and so their genes remain much more stable over generations, and have therefore often been used as tools to explore the origins of humans.
By identifying short sequences in the DNA of the parasite's mitochondria and apicoplasts which were found to be specific for different geographic locations, the team were able to design a highly accurate genetic barcode (92% predictive) which is stable and geographically informative over time.
Study co-author Dr Cally Roper, Senior Lecturer in Malaria Genetics from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: "By taking finger-prick bloodspots from malaria patients and using rapid gene sequencing technologies on small amounts of parasite material, local agencies could use this new barcode to quickly and accurately identify where a form of the parasite may have come from, and help in programmes of malaria elimination and resistance containment."
The authors say this barcode is limited as the current study lacks representation of the Indian sub-continent, Central America, southern Africa and the Caribbean, owing to the scarcity of sequence data from these regions. In addition, there is a need to study more samples from East Africa, a region of high genetic diversity, high migration and poor predictive ability.
To request a copy of the paper or to interview the authors, please contact Joel Winston in the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine press office on firstname.lastname@example.org or +44(0)207 927 2802.
Authors are available for interview up to the end of Friday 13 June.
Notes to Editors:
Paper reference: Mark D. Preston et al. A barcode of organellar genome polymorphisms identifies the geographic origin of Plasmodium falciparum strains. Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms5052
If you wish to provide a link to this paper for your readers, please use the following, which will go live at the time the embargo lifts: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms5052
About the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is a world-leading centre for research and postgraduate education in public and global health, with 3,900 students and more than 1,000 staff working in over 100 countries. The School is one of the highest-rated research institutions in the UK, and was recently cited as the world's leading research-focused graduate school. Our mission is to improve health and health equity in the UK and worldwide; working in partnership to achieve excellence in public and global health research, education and translation of knowledge into policy and practice. http://www.lshtm.ac.uk
Joel Winston | Eurek Alert!
Discovery of a Key Regulatory Gene in Cardiac Valve Formation
24.05.2017 | Universität Basel
Carcinogenic soot particles from GDI engines
24.05.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.
In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.05.2017 | Event News