Global Health - Research

By using genome-scale approaches, Sanger Institute researchers and their partners are making significant contributions to important problems in global health

Genomics has had a major impact on our understanding of health and disease. Applying genomic tools to global health issues has long been a feature of research at the Sanger Institute, beginning with key contributions to the reference genomes for two of the biggest global infectious disease killers, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the cause of TB, and Plasmodium falciparum, the cause of the majority of malaria mortality. The sequencing and production of reference genomes for important but often neglected tropical diseases such as schistosomiasis remains a priority of research at the Sanger Institute.

For other infectious diseases where the reference genome of the pathogen has already been generated, scientists are using new technologies to sequence hundreds and thousands of pathogen DNA samples collected from infected individuals around the world. This approach, sometimes referred to as genomic epidemiology, has many exciting applications, including identifying the origin and tracking the spread of drug resistant malaria parasites, understanding the global spread of diseases such as cholera, and measuring the consequences of introducing vaccines in endemic environments such as the pneumococcal vaccines in Asia and Africa. These same sequencing technologies are also being applied to understand the global patterns of human evolution, and to perform genome-wide association studies of diseases such as malaria, trachoma, sickle cell and diabetes. Genomic approaches are not restricted to DNA sequencing, and Sanger Institute researchers are also using high throughput techniques including experimental genetic manipulation, screening cellular phenotypes and analysis of protein-protein interactions, to understand the biology of diseases of global health significance.

A few more detailed examples from the broad range of global health research projects currently being undertaken at the Sanger Institute are listed below.

[International Fellow Sam Kariuki's Lab in Kenya - Sam Kariuki]

Selection of Projects

* Sickle Cell Disease
A collaborative study between the Sanger Institute and Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Surveying the genomes of the parasitic worms that have the greatest impact on human, agricultural and veterinary global health
* Cholera
Using next-generation sequencing to trace the source of cholera pandemics
The most prevalent sexually transmitted disease globally and the leading cause of blindness in the developing world
* African Genome Variation
Characterising genetic variation in African populations to support genetic disease studies
Tackling fundamental questions in malaria biology and discovering host-parasite interactions that are critical for drug and vaccine development
Discovering patterns of evolution associated with virulent salmonellae bacteria able to infect a range of hosts
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