Microsporidia are a large group of extreme parasites that invade humans and animals and cost great damage for health care systems and in agriculture; over 1,200 species are known. They live inside their host’s cells and have highly specialized features: They are only able to reproduce inside the host’s cells, they have the smallest known genome of all organisms with a cell nucleus (eukaryotes) and they posses no mitochondria of their own (the cell’s power plant). In addition, they developed a specialized infection apparatus, the polar tube, which they use to insert themselves into the cells of their host. Due to their phenomenal high molecular evolution rate, genome analysis has so far been rather unsuccessful: Their great genomic divergence from all other known organisms further complicates the study of their evolutionary lineage.
The UK CVN consists of Specialist Virology Centres (SVC), each of which is located in an academic centre and act as the driving force for virological service provision in that area. Specialist Virology Units (SVU) are smaller laboratories with virological services which are not as wide ranging as those provided by the SVCs. The UK CVN believes it is critical to work closely with district general hospital microbiology laboratories to provide a cost-effective and evidence based virological service. In addition, the UK CVN includes commercial partners with close working relationship with the network.