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Damer BlakeSpeaker Biography

Damer Blake

Following a PhD focused on bacterial genetics from the University of Aberdeen, Damer began working with Eimeria species parasites in 2001 at the Institute for Animal Health (IAH, UK). During his time at IAH he carried out fundamental and applied genetics-led research, contributing to the Eimeria genome sequencing consortium, developing reverse-genetics strategies for use with Eimeria and using genetic mapping as a step towards new cost-effective anticoccidial vaccines. In 2013 Damer was appointed Senior Lecturer in Molecular Parasitology at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC). Current research strands include continuing studies to map genetic loci that encode immunoprotective antigens as vaccine candidates and the development of Eimeria as a novel vaccine delivery vehicle (in collaboration with Prof. Fiona Tomley). More recently, Damer has developed research interests in Eimeria population genetics, evolution and genetic diversity, interactions of Eimeria with bacterial pathogens of poultry and the genetic basis of host resistance to coccidiosis.

Abstract Submission

Eimeria genomics: where are we now and where are we going?

Damer P. Blake, Pathology and Pathogen Biology, Royal Veterinary College, Hawkshead Lane, North Mymms, AL9 7TA, UK

The evolution of sequencing technologies, from Sanger to next generation (NGS) and now the emerging third generation, has prompted a radical frameshift moving genomics from the specialist to the mainstream. For parasitology, genomics has moved fastest for the protozoa, with sequence assemblies becoming available for multiple genera. Progress has commonly been slower for parasites of animals which lack zoonotic potential, but the deficit is being redressed with impact likely in the areas of drug and vaccine development, molecular diagnostics and population biology. Genomics studies with the apicomplexan Eimeria species clearly illustrate the approaches and opportunities available. Eimeria cause the disease coccidiosis, most notably in chickens where the global cost is thought to exceed US$3 billion every year. Farmers commonly rely on chemoprophylaxis to control Eimeria, but drug resistance develops rapidly and is now widespread. Vaccines are available, but production capacity and relative cost limit uptake. New methods of control are required, but progress has been undermined by the lack of genomic resources. Now, more than ten years after sequencing started, a genome sequence assembly has been published for Eimeria tenella. Additional sequence assemblies for all other Eimeria species which infect the chicken and Eimeria falciformis, a parasite of the mouse, offer powerful opportunities for comparative analysis, enhancing development of novel diagnostic and control strategies. The current status of Eimeria genomic resources will be reviewed and their application to define population structure for E. tenella described, revealing an intriguing dichotomy between Northern and Southern populations characterised by distinctive spatial haplotype occurrence with evidence of both clonality and panmixia.

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