Parasitic diseases have a devastating, long-term impact on human health, welfare and food production worldwide. More than two billion people are infected with geohelminths, including the roundworms Ascaris (common roundworm), Necator and Ancylostoma (hookworms), and Trichuris (whipworm), mainly in developing or impoverished nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America. In humans, the diseases caused by these parasites result in about 135,000 deaths annually, with a global burden comparable with that of malaria or tuberculosis in disability-adjusted life years. Ascaris alone infects around 1.2 billion people and, in children, causes nutritional deficiency, impaired physical and cognitive development and, in severe cases, death. Ascaris also causes major production losses in pigs owing to reduced growth, failure to thrive and mortality. The Ascaris-swine model makes it possible to study the parasite, its relationship with the host, and ascariasis at the molecular level. To enable such molecular studies, we report the 273 megabase draft genome of Ascaris suum and compare it with other nematode genomes. This genome has low repeat content (4.4%) and encodes about 18,500 protein-coding genes. Notably, the A. suum secretome (about 750 molecules) is rich in peptidases linked to the penetration and degradation of host tissues, and an assemblage of molecules likely to modulate or evade host immune responses. This genome provides a comprehensive resource to the scientific community and underpins the development of new and urgently needed interventions (drugs, vaccines and diagnostic tests) against ascariasis and other nematodiases.
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