Genetic thieves

David Roos and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania in the US, present evidence that parasites responsible for some of the world's most serious diseases, including malaria, stole large chunks of DNA from plants. Called apicoplast, the stolen DNA matter forms a third class of DNA in these single-cciled organisms. The other two classes are the nuclear DNA, containing most of the organism's inherited genetic blueprint and the mitochandrial DNA, inside chambers called mitochondria which serve as 'energy factories' of the cell. Researchers have found that apicoplast is vital to the survival of these organisms. This opens up possibilities for drugs that destroy the apicoplast DNA, killing the parasite. These single celled organisms belonging to Apicom- plexa family, that includes some of the infamous pathogens like Plasmodium falciparum and Toxoplasma gondii, which cause malaria and birth abnormalities in children born to infected mothers respectively. The information could could yield a core for these diseases.