1 University of Melbourne, Australia
DiscussionCompounded by massive global food and water shortages, diseases caused by parasitic worms have a devastating, long-term impact on hundreds of millions of people and animals worldwide. As no vaccines are available for most of these parasites, control relies heavily on the use of a small number of anti-parasitic drugs. The excessive and widespread use of such drugs, particularly in livestock animals, has led to drug resistance problems around the world, such that there is an ongoing need for the development of new interventions, preferably built on sound knowledge and understanding of the molecular biology, physiology and biochemistry of parasites. However, very little is known about these aspects for most parasitic worms. In an international effort over the last decade, a number of research groups have been using advanced nucleic acid sequencing and bioinformatics approaches to decode and annotate the genomes and transcriptomes of worms, providing first glimpses of their molecular landscapes. Thus, much progress has been made and major web-based resources established, providing unique and exciting opportunities to underpin fundamental molecular genetic and biochemical studies, and the discovery of new anti-parasite interventions. However, ‘dark matter’ in parasite genomes is vast, and there are still decades of work ahead of us, to make sense of data emanating from these sequencing efforts. The present talk will provide a personal perspective on the expanding parasite genome universe, and discuss future challenges and the need for complementary laboratory-based investigations to give ‘omic data sets biological meaning.