Single-Cell Sequencing During Developing Infection Reveals Multitude of New Mutations in Same Family of Transcription-Controlling Genes in Two Evolutionarily Distant Species of Malaria Parasites: Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax; Convergent Evolution Suggested

Understanding how malaria parasites evolve after a human is bitten by an infected mosquito is very difficult. There can be billions of individual parasites in a patient’s bloodstream and traditional genetic sequencing techniques can’t identify the raw material for evolution: new mutations. “If you want to understand if the parasites are related to each other, if they are all from one mosquito or multiple mosquito bites, and what novel mutations are emerging in an infection, then you have to bring it down to the individual genome level,” says Assistant Professor Ian Cheeseman, Ph.D., and Co-lead of the Host-Pathogen Interactions Program at Texas Biomedical Research Institute. Thanks to a combination of advanced techniques, Dr. Cheeseman and his collaborators are now able to sequence the genomes of individual parasites found in the blood of infected patients. Notably, they can now do this even when the infection burden is very low, which can occur during asymptomatic infections.

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