Five enzymes that are essential to the survival of a parasitic worm that infects livestock worldwide and is a great threat to global food security were identified by researchers. Two of these proteins are already being studied as potential drug targets against other pathogens.
The team sequenced the genome of Haemonchus contortus
, or the barber pole worm, a well-studied parasitic worm that resides in the gut of sheep and other livestock globally. This genome could provide a comprehensive understanding of how treatments against parasitic worms work and point to further new treatments and vaccines.
The barber pole worm or H. contortus
is part of a family of gastrointestinal worms that are endemic on 100% of farms and are estimated to cost the UK sheep industry alone more than Ģ80 million pounds each year. H. contortus
has become resistant to all major treatments against parasitic worms, so its genome is a good model to understand how drug resistance develops in this complex group of closely related parasites and will also reveal further potential drug and vaccine targets.
"Our reference genome allows researchers to understand how H. contortus
and other worms of this type acquire resistance to a wide range of anthelmintics - the drugs used to treat worm infections," says Dr James Cotton, senior author from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. "Seeing a common theme of drug resistance in this well-characterised worm is extremely important because both people and animals are reliant on so few treatments against parasitic worms."
The team sequenced the genome of a strain of H contortus
that was susceptible to all major classes of drugs against parasitic worms. By comparing this sequence with that of worms that have acquired drug resistance, the researchers expect to reveal a wealth of information about how and why resistance has occurred.