Friday, July 22, 2011


As you know, Simona, Evan, and I have been assisting Holly in extracting, amplifying ("PCR-ing"), sequencing, and identifying strains of malaria through tanager blood samples from Peru. During PCR, we used primers that isolated specific segments unique to Plasmodium and Haemoproteus, so when it came time to identify each DNA sample after sequencing, ideally only samples containing these malarial strains would remain and move on to the next step.... sequencing!

To match our sequences with known ones, we used the BLAST feature on the NCBI GenBank. This online database contains millions of species' genomes. We found that our DNA samples had around a 98%-99% overlap with known genomes, which is considered quite distant by scientific terms.

(Here's part of a note from Holly with some great news!)

Plus, this was sitting next to it haha.
It's probably a good half-inch thick of BLAST results!

We can use these results to help Holly answer questions such as do certain genera of birds at specific elevations tend to be infected more than others? Do particular vectors infect particular families, genera, or species over others? Have these vectors co-evolved with the birds they infect? Do interactions amongst different genera of hosts lead vectors to infect more organisms? How many potential vectors can carry/pass on strains of malaria?

At the start of this internship, we didn't really know if our work was going to be a significant contribution to the Emerging Pathogens Project. But as it turns out, the data we collected proved very useful (also with no errors!), and Holly plans on incorporating it into a paper she will be publishing!

- Kit and Simona -

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