Monday 4 August 2008

Visit to Kilifi

The final days in Paris were taken up by revisions to a paper submitted in April to PLoS Genetics. With luck the revisions will be accepted and that paper will be coming out soon. From Paris I flew to Mombasa, Kenya to begin a 3 week collaboration with Caroline Buckee at the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust research unit in Kilifi. Caroline, Pete Bull and others at Kilifi work on the evolution of var genes in Plasmodium falciparum, the most common and lethal agent of malaria. The var genes encode a family of proteins expressed by the pathogen on the membrane of infected red blood cells. Implicated in pathogenesis, these genes are highly diverse in order to evade the host immune system. The first step in piecing together their evolutionary history is to align the sequences - a task made difficult by the abundance of insertions and deletions. From there we hope to characterize the relative importance of gene duplication and homologous and non-homologous recombination in driving the evolution of these genes.