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article imageHow do lemurs fight infection?

By Tim Sandle     Jun 3, 2014 in Science
Next-generation genome sequencing technology is enabling researchers to catalog 150,000 antibodies found in a single species of lemur that seems uniquely susceptible to parasitic infection.
Cryptosporidium is a microscopic intestinal parasite. It affects many people through contaminated drinking water. Most people recover. However, the parasite has also begun affecting lemurs, and the mammals do not recover as well. This is an important issue since many lemurs, such as sifakas, are already endangered.
Through the use of next-generation sequencing technology, researchers are getting closer to understanding how these endangered animals fight the infection and detecting the illness early enough to minimize its spread. Next gen sequencing is the process of determining the precise order of the nucleotides that are contained within a DNA molecule. The advent of rapid DNA sequencing methods has greatly accelerated biological and medical research and discovery.
Through such technology, scientists used blood samples to generate genetic sequence data for more than 150,000 different antibodies (protective molecules that latch on to bacteria, viruses and other foreign invaders in the body and fight them off before they cause infection).
It is hoped that the new approach to parasitic disease detection and monitoring will help aid the protection of critically endangered species and aid conservation efforts. The research is part of a growing field called ecoimmunology. This new field of science aims to place the study of immunology beyond lab animals like fruit flies and mice and understand how immune systems function in real-world settings outside the laboratory.
The latest research has been published in the journal Molecular Ecology Resources. The paper is titled “Next-generation approaches to advancing eco-immunogenomic research in critically endangered primates.”
More about Lemurs, Infection, Parasite, cryptosporidium
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