After a decade-long research effort, the genome of the deer tick has been sequenced by an international team of scientists, including researchers from the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics. Studying the tick genome sheds light on how ticks function and will help in the development of novel tick control programs to interfere interfere with the processes of disease transmission. The deer tick transmits Lyme disease and other diseases, which cause thousands of human and animal deaths annually. With about 10,000 new patients each year, occurrences of Lyme disease in Switzerland are amongst the highest in Europe, representing a substantial healthcare cost and threatening Swiss tourism. Sequencing the genome of the Ixodes scapularis tick was a 10-year project, led by Purdue University entomologist Catherine Hill, Ph.D., and involving 93 scientists from 46 institutions, including researchers from the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, the University of Geneva Medical School, and the University of Lausanne’s Centre for Integrative Genomics. I. scapularis is the first tick species to have its genome sequenced, with the results published online on February 9, 2016 in the journal Nature Communications. The open-access article is titled “Genomic Insights into the Ixodes scapularis Tick Vector of Lyme Disease.” Known as the deer tick or blacklegged tick, the genome of this disease-carrying arachnid helps to shed light on how ticks acquire and transmit pathogens and offers tick-specific genetic targets for developing novel control programs.
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