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Section: Medicine
Opisthorchiasis through the Prism of Genome

Opisthorchiasis through the Prism of Genome

Over the century since the liver fluke Opisthorchis felineus was discovered, this parasite has been in the focus of constant and committed attention of many prominent scientists: morphologists, zoologists, parasitologists, and physicians examined it through the eyepieces of microscopes. They have succeeded in ferreting out many of its secrets: its intricate lifecycle has been clarified, its amazingly vast area has been mapped, and a variable pattern of the disease it causes has been described… Yet this parasite in many respects remains a puzzle for researchers. Geneticists today believe that the clue can be found in its own DNA. The genomics and proteomics project, being launched at the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, is aimed at “getting its genome into talk” and solving the mysteries encoded in the language of nucleic acids and proteins

WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT OPISTHORCHIASIS TODAY

The disease caused by the liver fluke Opisthorchis felineus is found on the area comparable with the territory of the African continent

In the largest Ob-Irtysh opisthorchiasis focus, humans, in addition to O. felineus, are also affected by the liver trematode Metorchis bilis. As for the other liver flukes living here, the question is still open

Some water bodies in the Ob-Irtysh river basin are free from liver flukes (among them the Malye Chany Lake in the Novosibirsk oblast). Why this happens is still a mystery

A mere light microscope is the right hand of research parasitologists and laboratory physicians, who diagnose the disease according to the presence of liver fluke eggs

A complex lifecycle of the liver trematodes has been comprehensively studied by parasitologists. However, genetic control of their reproduction and stability in various hosts is yet vague

Opisthorchiasis is a systemic disease affecting all systems of the body. Correspondingly, the absence of knowledge about the key genes and proteins of this parasite involved in opisthorchiasis development prevent from determining the targets for new vaccines and drugs

GOALS OF THE PROJECT

The first project on sequencing of a eukaryotic genome of multicellular organism in Russia will be implemented

Examination of the O. felineus genome will allow applying the state-of-the-art microarray methods to diagnose of opisthorchiasis

The precise DNA diagnostics will make it possible to distinguish between the parasitic species and improve both the treatment methods and the medical and epidemiological monitoring of natural opisthorchiasis foci

The study of parasite-host relationships at a gene level will allow the risk groups to be defined and the “gene maps” of opisthorchiasis patients to be constructed

The information about O. felineus genes and the structures and functions of its proteins will form the background for designing new test kits, pharmaceuticals, and vaccines

A new center for large-scale genome sequencing with the appropriate equipment and trained staff —a modern base for new genomics and proteomics research—will be organized with the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences

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