Melbourne veterinary researchers are using genomic techniques and bioinformatics to lead them to new specific candidate drugs for the treatment of a devastating parasite known as barber’s pole worm, which causes anaemia, deaths and massive production losses in the sheep industry.
Using the latest gene sequencing technology and the supercomputers of the Victorian Life Sciences Computation Initiative, Prof Robin Gasser’s research group from the University of Melbourne’s Veterinary School have been able to compare barber’s pole worm’s DNA and RNA with that of other organisms in order to track down genes essential to the worm’s growth, development, reproduction and survival.
The researchers, who call themselves molecular parasitologists, are now working hard to decode the genomes of a number of other debilitating parasites, to find new ways controlling them.
Hundreds of millions of humans and animals worldwide, particularly in developing countries, are seriously affected by a broad range of destructive parasitic worms. The parasites have long-term negative impacts on human and animal health and welfare, but in spite of this, Robin says, they are seriously neglected in terms of funding for fundamental research and R&D of drugs, vaccines and diagnostics.
Unlocking the genomes of these neglected pathogens will have substantial outcomes, Robin says, through the development of new drugs, vaccines and/or diagnostic tests. At the same time, a vast body of knowledge will be acquired about the biology and evolution of these complex organisms.
Photo: The barber’s pole worm causes deaths and massive production losses in the sheep industry.
School of Veterinary Science, University of Melbourne, Robin B. Gasser, firstname.lastname@example.org, http://research.vet.unimelb.edu.au/gasserlab/index.html