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The genome and transcriptome of Haemonchus contortus, a key model parasite for drug and vaccine discovery

Roz Laing1, Taisei Kikuchi23, Axel Martinelli2, Isheng J Tsai23, Robin N Beech4, Elizabeth Redman5, Nancy Holroyd2, David J Bartley6, Helen Beasley2, Collette Britton1, David Curran7, Eileen Devaney1, Aude Gilabert7, Martin Hunt2, Frank Jackson6, Stephanie L Johnston1, Ivan Kryukov7, Keyu Li7, Alison A Morrison6, Adam J Reid2, Neil Sargison8, Gary I Saunders12, James D Wasmuth7, Adrian Wolstenholme9, Matthew Berriman2, John S Gilleard5* and James A Cotton2*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, 464 Bearsden Road, Glasgow, Scotland, G61 1QH, UK

2 Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Wellcome Trust Genome Campus, Hinxton, Cambridge, CB10 1SA, UK

3 Division of Parasitology, Department of Infectious Disease, Faculty of Medicine, University of Miyazaki, Miyazaki, 889-1692 Japan

4 Institute of Parasitology, Macdonald Campus, McGill University, 21,111 Lakeshore Road, Ste. Anne de Bellevue, Québec, Canada H9X 3V9

5 Department of Comparative Biology and Experimental Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, 3330 Hospital Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4

6 Disease Control, Moredun Research Institute, Pentlands Science Park, Bush Loan, Penicuik, Midlothian, EH26 0PZ, UK

7 Department of Ecosystem and Public Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, 3330 Hospital Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4

8 Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush Veterinary Centre, Roslin, Midlothian EH25 9RG, Scotland, UK

9 Department of Infectious Diseases and Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Disease, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA

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Genome Biology 2013, 14:R88  doi:10.1186/gb-2013-14-8-r88

Published: 28 August 2013



The small ruminant parasite Haemonchus contortus is the most widely used parasitic nematode in drug discovery, vaccine development and anthelmintic resistance research. Its remarkable propensity to develop resistance threatens the viability of the sheep industry in many regions of the world and provides a cautionary example of the effect of mass drug administration to control parasitic nematodes. Its phylogenetic position makes it particularly well placed for comparison with the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and the most economically important parasites of livestock and humans.


Here we report the detailed analysis of a draft genome assembly and extensive transcriptomic dataset for H. contortus. This represents the first genome to be published for a strongylid nematode and the most extensive transcriptomic dataset for any parasitic nematode reported to date. We show a general pattern of conservation of genome structure and gene content between H. contortus and C. elegans, but also a dramatic expansion of important parasite gene families. We identify genes involved in parasite-specific pathways such as blood feeding, neurological function, and drug metabolism. In particular, we describe complete gene repertoires for known drug target families, providing the most comprehensive understanding yet of the action of several important anthelmintics. Also, we identify a set of genes enriched in the parasitic stages of the lifecycle and the parasite gut that provide a rich source of vaccine and drug target candidates.


The H. contortus genome and transcriptome provide an essential platform for postgenomic research in this and other important strongylid parasites.