Circa 2009: More than two billion people (one-third of humanity) are infected with parasitic roundworms or flatworms, collectively known as helminth parasites.
LET THAT SINK IN…Or maybe not…8)
These infections cause diseases that are responsible for enormous levels of morbidity and mortality, delays in the physical development of children, loss of productivity among the workforce, and maintenance of poverty. Genomes of the major helminth species that affect humans, and many others of agricultural and veterinary significance, are now the subject of intensive genome sequencing and annotation. Draft genome sequences of the filarial worm Brugia malayi and two of the human schistosomes, Schistosoma japonicum and S. mansoni, are now available, among others. These genome data will provide the basis for a comprehensive understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in helminth nutrition and metabolism, host-dependent development and maturation, immune evasion, and evolution. They are likely also to predict new potential vaccine candidates and drug targets. In this review, we present an overview of these efforts and emphasize the potential impact and importance of these new findings.