Protist parasites cause important human and animal diseases, and because of their early divergence from other eukaryotes they possess structural and biochemical characteristics not found in other cells. The completion of the genome projects of most human protist parasites and the development of novel molecular tools for their study guarantee a rapid progress in understanding how they invade, modify and survive within their hosts. The ultimate goal of these studies will be the identification of targets for the design of drugs, diagnostics and vaccines. In addition, the accessibility of some of these parasites to multiple genetic manipulations has converted them into model systems in cell and molecular biology studies that could lead to the understanding of basic biological processes, as well as their evolution and pathogenesis. In the present chapter we discuss the biochemical and molecular peculiarities of these parasites and the molecular tools available for their study.

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