Stefano Lonardi, Pallavi Singh, Qihua Liang, Pratap Vydyam, Eleonora Khabirova, Tiffany Fang, Shalev Gihaz, Jose Thekkiniath, Muhammad Munshi, Steven Abel, Gayani Batugedara, Mohit Gupta, Xueqing Maggie Lu, Todd Lenz, Sakshar Chakravarty, Emmanuel Cornillot, Yangyang Hu, Wenxiu Ma, Luis Miguel Gonzalez, Sergio Sánchez, Estrella Montero, Karel Estrada, Alejandro Sánchez-Flores, Omar S. Harb, Karine G. Le Roch, Choukri Ben Mamoun.
Babesia species are tick-transmitted apicomplexan pathogens and the causative agents of babesiosis, a malaria-like disease of major medical and veterinary importance. Of the different species of Babesia reported so far, Babesia duncani causes severe to lethal infection in patients. Despite the highly virulent nature of this parasite and the risk it may pose as an emerging pathogen, little is known about its biology, metabolic requirements, and pathogenesis. B. duncani is unique among apicomplexan parasites that infect red blood cells in that it can be continuously cultured in vitro in human erythrocytes but can also infect mice leading to fulminant babesiosis infection and death. Here we have taken advantage of the recent advances in the propagation of this parasite in vitro and in vivo to conduct detailed molecular, genomic and transcriptomic analyses and to gain insights into its biology. We report the assembly, 3D structure, and annotation of the nuclear genome of this parasite as well as its transcriptomic profile and an atlas of its metabolism during its intraerythrocytic life cycle. Detailed examination of the B. duncani genome and comparative genomic analyses identified new classes of candidate virulence factors, suitable antigens for diagnosis of active infection, and several attractive drug targets. Translational analyses and efficacy studies identified highly potent inhibitors of B. duncani thus enriching the pipeline of small molecules that could be developed as effective therapies for the treatment of human babesiosis.