Chasing the cause of chicken coccidiosis

Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Blog

15 July 2014
By Adam Reid

Credit: Thegreenj, Wikipedia Commons Credit: Thegreenj, Wikipedia Commons Sequencing the genome of the chicken parasite Eimeria has uncovered a fascinating quirk and could help us to develop more cost-effective vaccines that will target all seven species of the parasite. Coccidiosis, the disease caused by Eimeria parasites, poses a major threat to food security as chickens are one of the most important sources of animal protein worldwide.

When we looked at the DNA of this parasite, we noticed that each chromosome had an ordered, barcode-like pattern of repetitive sections of DNA code. These repeats often occur within genes and it turns out that this parasite has the most repeat-rich genes ever described.

While these repeat-rich regions disrupt the majority of protein-coding sequences in the genome, we have every reason to believe they are beneficial to the parasite, as they have been present in the genome for millions of years…

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