Eimeria genomics: Where are we now and where are we going?

The evolution of sequencing technologies, from Sanger to next generation (NGS) and now the emerging third generation, has prompted a radical frameshift moving genomics from the specialist to the mainstream. For parasitology, genomics has moved fastest for the protozoa with sequence assemblies becoming available for multiple genera including Babesia, Cryptosporidium, Eimeria, Giardia, Leishmania, Neospora, Plasmodium, Theileria, Toxoplasma and Trypanosoma. Progress has commonly been slower for parasites of animals which lack zoonotic potential, but the deficit is now being redressed with impact likely in the areas of drug and vaccine development, molecular diagnostics and population biology. Genomics studies with the apicomplexan Eimeria species clearly illustrate the approaches and opportunities available. Specifically, more than ten years after initiation of a genome sequencing project a sequence assembly was published for Eimeria tenella in 2014, complemented by assemblies for all other Eimeria species which infect the chicken and Eimeria falciformis, a parasite of the mouse. Public access to these and other coccidian genome assemblies through resources such as GeneDB and ToxoDB now promotes comparative analysis, encouraging better use of shared resources and enhancing opportunities for development of novel diagnostic and control strategies. In the short term genomics resources support development of targeted and genome-wide genetic markers such as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), with whole genome re-sequencing becoming viable in the near future. Experimental power will develop rapidly as additional species, strains and isolates are sampled with particular emphasis on population structure and allelic diversity.

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