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The avian coccidiosis agent’s genes

Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez

Bird farm: disease attacks the gastrointestinal tract of animals, causing lossesLuis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez

A group of researchers from the University of São Paulo (USP) have catalogued the genes of three important species of protozoans (Eimeria acervulina, E. maxima and E. tenella) that cause avian coccidiosis, a disease that affects the gastrointestinal tract of birds causing major losses to bird farmers (International Journal for Parasitology, January 2012). Instead of sequencing the genome of the organism, the research group, led by professors Alda Madeira and Arthur Gruber, from USP’s Institute of Biomedical Sciences, chose messenger RNAs as their target. These are molecules transcribed from the genome that code the proteins of a living being. The researchers compared the patterns of gene expression in six different life stages of the parasite and found clear associations between the position of these stages in the lifecycle of the protozoan and their respective genic profiles. Knowledge of the transcribed genes and their patterns of expressions may lead to a broader understanding of the molecular mechanisms that control the parasite’s path and, therefore, to the development of more specific strategies for fighting this disease, such as a new generation of medication or the identification of molecules that could be used, potentially, to create a vaccine.