Apicomplexans are obligate intracellular parasites that evolved from a common ancestor hundreds of millions of years ago that also gave rise to ciliates, dinoflagellates, and the relatively recently discovered group of alga commonly referred to as 'chromerids'. Arguably, apicomplexans represent the world’s most successful and diverse parasitic lineage with a global impact on human health, food security and economics. Malaria-causing Plasmodium species, Toxoplasma and Cryptosporidium are amongst the worst known parasites of mankind. Parasites such as Neospora, Theileria, Babesia and Eimeria are important threat to global food security. To understand how a parasitic life style has originated and diversified in apicomplexans, we are engaged in sequencing and comparative genome analysis of a large number of apicomplexans and photosynthetic chromerids, the closest known photosynthetic relatives of apicomplexans. We are also engaged in studying host-parasite interactions in apicomplexan parasites using functional genomics approaches.
We are involved with the development of software tools for visualising genome-scale datasets on pathogen discovery and genome variation. SVAMP - Sequence variation analysis, maps and phylogeny software was developed to visualise single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and Insertions/Deletions (INDELs) in genomes of sequenced strains/isolates. READSCAN is a highly scalable pathogen discovery tool that was developed to screen for sequences of pathogen origin and also to identify contamination in deep-sequencing datasets. For more details on the tools developed in our lab see the software section. Members of our group are also involved in routine bioinformatics-driven genome-scale analysis using software pipelines implemented on our compute cluster.
In the hierarchy of microbial evolution, Mycobacteria represent a distinct group. The genus Mycobacterium contains more than 150 species and 11 sub-species, which are separated in three major groups, that is, M. tuberculosis complex (MTBC) which can cause tuberculosis in humans and animals, M. leprae, the causative agent of Hansen's disease or leprosy, and mycobacteria other than MTBC and M. leprae, collectively referred to as non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM), also known as environmental mycobacteria, residing in soil and in water and can cause pulmonary disease resembling tuberculosis, lymphadenitis, skin disease, or disseminated disease. M. tuberculosis, the most prominent member of the MTBC, is an obligate human pathogen and the causative agent of tuberculosis (TB), which remains one of the leading global public health problems. To decipher the biology and the evolution of present day mycobacterial species, we are building complete genetic maps of these species using comparative and functional genomics approaches.