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Pakistan-US Science and Technology Cooperation Program                                                            
Phase 4 (2009 Deadline)

Arthropod Functional Genomics Initiative: Building Community Resources for Animal Health 

Shahid Karim, University of Southern Mississippi

USM-UA Arthropod Functional Genomics Initiative Dr. Sohail Sajid

Dr. Sohail Sajid (visiting postdoctoral fellow) working with Baobin Kang (MS INBRE Core Facility) to localize tick salivary proteins using a confocal microscope (photo courtesy of Dr. Shahid Karim).

Zafar Iqbal and Muhammad Sohail Sajid, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad
Pakistani Funding (Department of State): $206,146
US Funding (Department of State): $351,671
Project Dates on US Side: November 15, 2010 - November 14, 2013
 
Project Overview
 
In Pakistan, the livestock sector plays a key role in the country’s growth, representing more than 50 percent of agricultural output and more than 11 percent of the national gross domestic product. More than 90 percent of livestock is owned by small farmers and landless rural householders, who earn their livelihoods by selling milk and animals, but ticks and tick-borne diseases are a major limiting factor in animal health and wellbeing. Thus, effective tick control is vital to continued success of small livestock holders. The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) and the University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF) have formed a partnership to build a new molecular parasitology laboratory and training program at UAF aimed at developing diagnostic and preventive tools for vectors and vector-transmitted diseases. They will use genomic mapping to identify novel means of blocking tick feeding and pathogen transmission. This research project will provide valuable knowledge for future development strategies for tick control, as well as provide potential targets for drug and vaccine design aimed at blocking tick feeding on cattle. The broader impacts of this project will include not only a better understanding of prolonged arthropod vector feeding on vertebrate hosts but also enhanced training of faculty and future life scientists, who will gain valuable first-hand experience in the conduct of genomics research. 

Quarterly Update

The identity of Rickettsia species associated with 574 ticks of 11 species collected from Pakistan was determined by sequencing the rickettsial outer membrane protein A (rompA) gene. The DNA sequence homology search revealed the presence of Rickettsia, Babesia, and Thelieria species associated with cattle disease in Pakistani ticks and have been catalogued. New species are being characterized. It should open up a new avenue of research in developing diagnostic tools, and their prevention (therapeutic/vaccine). The team identified over 5000 tick salivary genes using RNA-Seq technology. These tick salivary genes/proteins assist ticks in prolonged tick blood feeding on the host, and pathogen transmission. Identification of these salivary genes will assist in screening targets for anti-tick (anti-disease) vaccines and new pharmacologically active proteins (e.g. blood thinners, inhibitors of several blood problems etc). The visiting student, Asma Kausar completed her six month training at USM and returned to Pakistan in September 2013. Arrival of another graduate student, Mr. Jawad ul Hassan was delayed until October 6 due to administrative and visa issues. A third student, Ms. Quratul Ain, who is still waiting for her visa will bring additional samples from Pakistan and investigate the tick microbiome using functional metagenomic approach during her stay at the US lab.
 
 USM-UA Arthropod Functional Genomics Initiative Awards
ESA-SEB(Entomological Society of America –Southeastern branch) awards photo: From left to right, Graduate students from Karim Lab with their presentation awards. Deepak Kumar, Khemraj Budachetri, Nabanita Mukherjee, and Rebecca Browning.

 USM-UA Arthropod Functional Genomics Initiative Visiting Scholar
Asma Kausar (Visiting Pakistani scholar) and Rebecca Browning are getting ready to start experiment.


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