50 Helminth Genomes Initiative

We are surveying the genomes of the parasitic worms that have the greatest impact on human, agricultural and veterinary disease and cause significant global health issues particularly in the developing world.

Despite their global importance both medically and economically, parasitic helminth (worm) research has remained relatively untouched by genomics. Worm infections account for morbidity equivalent to that of malaria or tuberculosis and more than one billion people are infected globally every year. The 50 Helminth Genomes project is working in collaboration with parasitologists all over the world, along with The Genome Institute at Washington University and Gene Pool at Edinburgh University, to:

  • provide rapid draft data for a broad list of parasitic helminths
  • produce high-quality reference genomes for a subset of helminths that include key human pathogens such as whipworms, threadworms, Schistosomes and tapeworms.

[Schistosoma mansoni - David Goulding/Florian Sessler, Genome Research Limited]

Background

The term helminth encompasses a broad range of parasitic worms, such as giant roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, flukes and tapeworms, that cause intestinal infections on a staggering scale along with other diseases, which include schistosomiasis (bilharzia), cysticercosis, lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis) and onchocerciasis (river blindness).

Strongyloides ratti

Strongyloides ratti [Mark Viney, University of Bristol]

zoom

Helminth infections can be acquired via a range of transmission routes. Schistosome or hookworm larvae directly penetrate the skin from infected water or soil, while filarial worms, such as Onchocerca, are transmitted by insect vectors. Inadequate sanitation is a major risk factor for infection: ingestion of contaminated water and food, containing worm eggs that are excreted with faeces, results in more than one billion people developing intestinal worm diseases globally every year. People with helminth infections commonly have reduced nutritional uptake, tissue reactions (such as granuloma), and may suffer from intestinal obstruction or bleeding, rectal prolapse, or anaemia.

Poverty and helminth infections are inextricably linked. Children are most affected by the diseases; they can suffer from slow growth and reduced cognitive development, which leads to long-lasting effects on educational and wage-earning prospects. Some helminth infections are associated with reduced neo-natal birth weight, increased rates of premature births and higher maternal morbidity. Infections with more than one kind of parasite species are common and helminth infections frequently co-exist with malaria and HIV.

Communities can be profoundly affected by helminth infections. For example, it is common for children to be seen guiding village elders with river blindness, caused by the filarial worm Onchocerca volvulus. Blindness and deformity caused by filarial infections can be socially stigmatising and ostracizing.

Our Project

We are aiming to produce genome sequences from more than 50 helminth species using next-generation sequencing technology. Draft assemblies of the genomes will underpin research and progress into these neglected diseases. Gene and protein predictions will provide a resource that can be mined by researchers for diagnostic markers, new drug targets or vaccines. Comparing the genomes will yield evolutionary insights and will enable more to be learnt about the genomic basis for the huge differences in the biology of these parasites and the diseases they cause.

The genomes are accessible from the FTP site. These are available from the Sanger Institute as part of a pre-publication release. For information on the proper use of pre-publication data shared by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (including details of any publication moratoria), please see the data sharing policy.

Partners

  • Adrian Streit - Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Tubingen, Germany
  • Aidan Emery - Department of Life Sciences, Natural History Museum, London, United Kingdom
  • Andrew Dean - Department of Histopathology, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • Antonio Muro - Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad de Salamanca, Salamanca, Spain
  • Antonio Osuna - Departamento de Parasitologia, Universidad de Granada, Granada, Spain
  • Carmen Cuellar - Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
  • Cecilia Fernandez - Universidad de la Republica, Montevideo, Uruguay
  • Chris Williams - Environment Agency, Brampton, United Kingdom
  • David Daniell - Butler University, Indianapolis, United States of America
  • David Rollinson - Department of Life Sciences, Natural History Museum, London, United Kingdom
  • Dee Denver - Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing, Oregon State University, Corvallis, United States of America
  • Eileen Devaney - Univeristy of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom
  • Estela Castillo - Universidad de la Republica, Montevideo, Uruguay
  • Fiona Allen - Natural History Muesum, London, United Kingdom
  • Gabor Majoros - Department of Parasitology and Zoology, Szent Istvan University, Budapest, Hungary
  • Haruhiko Murayama - Department of Molecular Parasitology, Nagoya City University Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Nagoya, Japan
  • Hiroshi Sato - Yamaguchi University, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan
  • Jacqui Matthews - Moredun Research Institute, Midlothian, United Kingdom
  • James Lok - Department of Pathobiology, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Philadelphia, United States of America
  • Jane Hodgkinson - Institute of Infection and Global Health, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom
  • John Gilleard - Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  • Joseph Cook - Museum of Southwestern Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, United States of America
  • Kazuhito Asano - Division of Physiology, Showa University, Tokyo, Japan
  • Keeseon Eom - Department of Parasitology and Medical Research Institute, Chungbuk National University College of Medicine, Cheongju, Korea
  • Klaus Brehm - Institut fur Hygiene und Mikrobiologie, University of Wurzburg, Wurzburg, Germany
  • Makedonka Mitreva - Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri, United States of America
  • Manuela Schnyder - Institute of Parasitology, University of Zurich, Switzerland
  • Mark Blaxter - Institute of Evolutionary Biology, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • Mark Eberhard - Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, Atlanta, United States of America
  • Mark Viney - University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom
  • Martin Kalbe - Max-Planck Institute for Evoutionary Biology, Department of Evolutionary Ecology, Ploen, Germany
  • Pete Olson - Department of Life Sciences, Natural History Museum, London, United Kingdom
  • Petr Horak - Department of Parasitology, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic
  • Phil Cooper - Department of Parasitology, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom
  • Pilar Foronda - Institute of Tropical Diseases and Public Health of the Canary Islands, University of La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain
  • Rafael Toledo - Departamento de Parasitologia, Universidad de Valencia, Valencia, Spain
  • Richard Grencis - University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom
  • Rick Maizels - Institute of Immunology and Infection Research, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • Sara Lustigman - New York Blood Center, New York, United States of America
  • Shih-Hsin Chang - Department of Parasitology, Chang Gung University, Taoyuan, Taiwan
  • Steve Paterson - Institute of Integrative Biology, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom
  • Tomas Scholz - Institute of Parasitology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague, Czech Republic
  • Warwick Grant - Genetics Department, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia
  • Yolanda Manga - Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, Leon, Spain

Data download

Sequence data for each project is accessible for download from the FTP site and searching using 50HGI BLAST. These are available from the Sanger Institute as part of a pre-publication release. For information on the proper use of pre-publication data shared by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (including details of any publication moratoria), please see the data sharing policy.

* quick link - http://q.sanger.ac.uk/5wbz2fvl