Genetic code cracked for dog and human parasite

On Feb. 4, an international team of scientists sequenced the genetic code of Toxocara canis, a roundworm that causes disease in humans and animals, paving the way for new drugs, vaccines and diagnostic tests. The study was published Feb. 4 in the online journal Nature Communications.

A parasite, Toxocara canis causes toxocariasis, a disease that affects not only young children worldwide but can be fatal to young puppies, especially if untreated. (Hundreds of worms up to 15 centimeters in length can pack out the entire small intestines.)

Senior author, Professor Robin Gasser, from the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, University of Melbourne, said the parasite causes toxocariasis when passed from infected dogs to humans through contact with fecal material. "When an animal excretes the worms’ eggs in feces, the eggs can spread," Professor Gasser said.

"Although the study focused on T. canis, the findings and the technological approaches used should be readily applicable to a wide range of other ascaridoid nematodes (roundworms) of major animal and human health importance," Professor Gasser said.

The international study was led by the University of Melbourne and included the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), BGI-Shenzhen, California Institute of Technology and Monash University.


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