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Unveiling Genome of Dust Mite

The Faculty of Medicine of CUHK, together with the Shenzhen University School of Medicine and the State Key Laboratory of Respiratory Disease in Guangzhou, has recently made a ground-breaking discovery about the draft genome of Dermatophagoides (D.) farinae (one of several dust mite species) and the microbiota components inside their gut, casting new light on the diagnosis of and interventions in inhalant allergies.

Over 70% of the allergy cases are triggered by dust mites. However, dust mites are tiny and cannot be observed with the naked eye and are extremely difficult to culture in a laboratory environment. The reason behind the correlation between dust mites and allergy has been unknown for years. The latest research was conducted by a team led by Prof. Stephen Kwok Wing Tsui (1st right), School of Biomedical Sciences. 'Sixteen-thousands genes are found in the D. farinae genome, which is 70% of that of humans, while there are approximately 54 million genetic codes uncovered, which is far less than the three-billion codes of the human genome. This reveals that the high genomic density and complexity of the species are far beyond previous estimations,' said Professor Tsui.

Through the verification of serum collected from allergy patients, the joint research team discovered eight novel allergens from the D. farinae genome. One of these newly found allergens has been named Der f24 with the approval of the Allergen Nomenclature Sub-committee of the World Health Organization and the International Union of Immunological Societies. 'Varieties of bacteria which have not been reported as dust mite-related were detected in the body and gut of D. farinae, in particular, the Enterobacter,' Professor Tsui added. 'These residential bacteria inside D. farinae are potential allergens that induce inhalant allergy after they are excreted. It is very probable that this discovery will become a new trend in allergy study.'

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