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Retraction vindicated?

Two new studies seek to validate the results of a retracted 2004 paper on parasite-to-host gene transfer, but skepticism lingers

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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The microparasite that causes Chagas disease really can integrate bits of its genetic material into its host's genome, where it can then be inherited by the host's offspring, according to two studies published in linkurl:PLoS ONE;http://f1000.com/5406956?key=7dy1rrt6b35c8v1 and PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases (PLoS NTD).
Trypanosoma cruzi forms in blood smear from patient with African trypanosomiasis.
Image: Wikimedia commons, CDC/Dr. Myron G. Schultz
The findings, which may represent the first documentation of lateral genetic transfer from parasite to host and subsequent vertical transfer to the host's progeny, appear to confirm the results of a retracted 2004 Cell paper, but lingering uncertainties in the data leave some scientists unconvinced."I think it's very exciting, and could explain a lot of things about Chagas disease," said genome biologist linkurl:Cédric Feschotte;http://www.uta.edu/biology/feschotte/ at the University of Texas in Arlington, who was not involved in the research. "The implications are potentially huge, but extraordinary claims...
Trypanosoma cruziT. cruziT. cruziCellCell
Trypanosoma cruzi in monkey heart.
Image: Wikimedia commons, CDC/ Dr. L.L. Moore, Jr.
CellThe ScientistCellCellPLoS ONET. cruziPLoS NTDT. cruziPLoS ONEPLoS NTDCellThe ScientistCellT. cruziM.M. Hecht et al., "Inheritance of DNA transferred from American trypanosomes to human hosts," linkurl:PLoS ONE,;http://f1000.com/5406956?key=7dy1rrt6b35c8v1 5: e918, 2010.A.R.L. Teixeira et al., "Trypanosoma cruzi in the chicken model: Chagas-like heart disease in the absence of parasitism," PLoS Negl Trop Dism, 5: e1000, 2011.

Cell



PLoS ONETrypanosoma cruzi
Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz

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