Worm genomes and excitement.

Ascaris lumbricoides (image: CDC DPDx)

Nature, as a journal, is really a magazine, and therefore its scope is really, really broad. That means that it’s really, really hard to get anything published in it because the demand is so high. Everyone wants an article in Nature, or Science. There is certainly a degree of prestige associated with having a publication in these journals.

I would like to direct your attention to a particular paper that has just been published online (go here), led by Aaron Jex from the University of Melbourne. (Aaron and I did our PhDs at around the same time on pinworm nematodes in insects and mice respectively – he’s a rising star in parasitology and is working on some really cool stuff)

This is pretty exciting because it’s a paper in Nature on a parasite that is not malaria. The research group have published the first draft genome of Ascaris suum, a big nematode that occurs in pigs. It’s really important because A. suum is closely related to the big nematode that occurs in people, A. lumbricoides. The reason why it’s important is linked my earlier post about the other parasites that infect kids other than malaria. The burden of disease caused by A. lumbricoides, T. trichiura and the hookworms is large, causes physical and cognitive problems that stay with kids as they grow into adults and should not be ignored. The knowledge gained from having this new information can be used directly to develop novel treatments for the diseases caused by nematode infection.

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