Sequencing Theileria parva may aid vaccination efforts
Kenya changed Claire Fraser. The president of The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR), based in Rockville, Md., has had her name linked to an impressive number of the genomes sequenced to date, but her current work on a parasite that is causing devastation in Africa is especially meaningful to her. The target of her research is a comparatively unfamiliar organism--a tick-borne parasite related to the malaria pathogen called Theileria parva that causes a swiftly fatal leukemia-like illness in cattle called East Coast fever.
East Coast fever isn't a rare, hit-or-miss illness, but one that wipes out entire herds. It kills more than a million cattle in 11 African nations each year and causes losses of at least $200 million. "East Coast fever kills cattle in three weeks, and the people can't afford to replace them. They are looking starvation right in the face," says Fraser. TIGR researchers hope that the organism's genome will pave the way toward developing a more effective vaccine, and reveal points of vulnerability.