In 2009, with support from NIAID, researchers sequenced the full genomes of two species of schistosome parasite, Schistosoma mansoni and S. japonicum, providing investigators with information that is being used to develop drugs and vaccines. In 2012, the NIAID-supported Schistosomiasis Resource Center supplied parasites to researchers in Australia who sequenced the full genome of S. haematobium, the third species of human-infecting worm. For example, investigators have begun to uncover the metabolic reactions that are encoded in the worm’s genetic sequences. As a next step, it may be possible to design a drug that disables the identified metabolic processes, thereby inhibiting the parasite’s development.
NIAID also helped support the 2017 genome sequencing of the tropical freshwater Ram’s Horn snail, Biomphalaria glabrata, which S. mansoni parasites require to complete their life cycle. An understanding of the snail’s genetic repertoire helps researchers interpret how the parasite exploits metabolic or other systems of its host and may allow the development of ways to slow or halt snail-mediated parasite transmission.
Extending snail genomics research outside the lab, NIAID-supported researchers in Kenya are studying how biological differences among closely related, but genetically distinct, B. glabrata snails in Lake Victoria Basin differ in how well they sustain S. mansoni. The aim of the research is to develop schistosome-resistant snails.