The Hopes and Realities of the Plasmodium falciparum Genome

Photo: Courtesy of the World Health Organization, P. Virot THE REALITY OF ETHIOPIA: Trying to survive malaria in Ethiopia, on Africa's east coast. In 1998, Ethiopia's infant mortality rate was 116 per 1,000 live births (WHO) compared to 7.2 per 1000 in the US (CDC). Sequencing a 23-megabase genome hardly sounds like a triumph--that's just twice the size of an average yeast genome and one-hundredth of the human genome. Yet, there was cause for celebration after a high-profile team of coll

Brendan Maher
Nov 24, 2002
Photo: Courtesy of the World Health Organization, P. Virot
 THE REALITY OF ETHIOPIA: Trying to survive malaria in Ethiopia, on Africa's east coast. In 1998, Ethiopia's infant mortality rate was 116 per 1,000 live births (WHO) compared to 7.2 per 1000 in the US (CDC).

Sequencing a 23-megabase genome hardly sounds like a triumph--that's just twice the size of an average yeast genome and one-hundredth of the human genome. Yet, there was cause for celebration after a high-profile team of collaborators closed all but 93 gaps in the sequence of Plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly and endemic human malarial parasite. Besides infecting nearly 500 million people and killing an estimated 2 million annually, this single-celled terror presented a formidable sequencing task: Its genome's dense A-T content made it difficult to clone.

Now, with the genome in hand,1 the sequences for its mosquito2 and human hosts available, a...