One of the projects being undertaken at the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Unit is the annotation of Ehrlichia ruminantium, a bacterial genome that is the causative agent of heartwater in cattle. This genome was recently sequenced by Prof Basil Allsopp’s research team, first at the ARC Onderstepoort and more recently at the Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases at the University of Pretoria.
The goal of the project is to find new molecules to develop veterinary vaccines against heartwater. Prof Allsopp received funding to sequence the genome. After his team had completed the sequencing, they collaborated with a group at the Sanger Centre in England – the largest genomics centre in the world – with the necessary bioinformatics expertise to assist with the data analysis.
The Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Unit was involved with the analysis of the genome for open reading frames, genes, control sequences and repeats.
This collaborative project has yielded a complete annotation of the first genome sequenced in Africa and negotiations are underway with a prestigious journal for publication towards the middle of 2004.