New DNA sequencing strategy could be vital during disease outbreak

EU-funded scientists have developed a strategy to rapidly identify the genetic properties of virulent strains of bacteria. Such techniques will be essential in responding effectively to an epidemic of a new strain of a disease or a bioterrorist attack.

Thanks to traditional DNA sequencing technologies, researchers have succeeded in sequencing the genomes of over 450 species of bacteria, including representative strains of all major human pathogens. However, this process is extremely slow, and in the case of an outbreak or terrorist attack, scientists need to determine the pathogen's genome as soon as possible so that they can determine which virulence genes or drug resistance genes the bacteria has.

Recently, techniques have been developed which enable scientists to sequence an entire bacterial genome in a matter of hours. However, the finishing steps required to obtain the complete sequence are still very time consuming. In this latest study, scientists in France and Sweden investigated whether enough information to mount a response to an outbreak could be obtained by using a rapidly sequenced, incomplete genome and comparing it to existing genomes for the same species. Their results are published online by the journal Genome Research.

They tested their theory on a strain of Francisella tularensis, a highly infectious bacterium that causes a disease called tularaemia. People catch the disease from the bite of an infected tick, while handling infected animal carcasses or by eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Symptoms include fever, chills, headaches, diarrhoea, muscle and joint pain and progressive weakness. If left untreated, it can be fatal. The scientists chose it for their study because there are strong concerns that it could be genetically manipulated for use as a biological weapon.

"In the context of an outbreak, a quick approach may help to identify immediately the genetic determinants responsible for modified virulence or transmission," explained Dr Bernard La Scola of the University of the Mediterranean in France.

Dr La Scola and his colleagues used rapid sequencing technology to obtain the genome of a strain of F. tularensis taken from a patient suffering from tularaemia. They were able to identify a number of genes linked to virulence as well as a mutation associated with quinolone resistance. The researchers were also able to distinguish their strain from 80 other strains of F. tularensis.

"We demonstrated that this strategy was efficient to detect gene polymorphisms such as a gene modification responsible for antibiotic resistance, and loss of genetic material," commented Dr La Scola.

According to the team, with enough researchers working on the project, the time from DNA extraction to complete genome analysis can be cut to just six weeks. Dr Scola believes that future advances in the software used to analyse and compare genome sequences could cut this time still further.

EU support for the research came from the EU-funded EuroPathoGenomics Network of Excellence, which is funded under the 'Life sciences, genomics and biotechnology for health' thematic area of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).

For more information, please visit:
http://www.genome.org

Copyright ©European Communities, 2008
Neither the Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, nor any person acting on its behalf, is responsible for the use, which might be made of the attached information. The attached information is drawn from the Community R&D Information Service (CORDIS). The CORDIS services are carried on the CORDIS Host in Luxembourg - http://cordis.europa.eu. Access to CORDIS is currently available free-of-charge.

Most Popular Now

Pfizer and BioNTech complete submission to Europea…

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) and BioNTech SE (Nasdaq: BNTX) today announced they have completed a submission to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for an Omicron-adapted biva...

AstraZeneca to acquire TeneoTwo and its clinical-s…

AstraZeneca announced an agreement to acquire TeneoTwo, Inc. (TeneoTwo)i, including its Phase I clinical-stage CD19/CD3 T-cell engager, TNB-486, currently under evaluatio...

Lilly will supply an additional 150,000 doses of b…

Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE: LLY) announced a modified purchase agreement with the U.S. government to supply an additional 150,000 doses of bebtelovimab for approximately...

Bayer to sell men's health product Nebido™ to Grün…

Bayer and Grünenthal have entered into a definitive agreement regarding the sale of Bayer's men's health product Nebido™ (testosterone undecanoate), for a purchase price ...

Demonstration of a potent, universal coronavirus m…

The SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 has killed 6.3 million people worldwide since 2019, painfully highlighting the vulnerability of humanity to novel coronaviruses. Re...

Vaccine protection against COVID-19 short-lived, b…

Since COVID-19 vaccines first became available to protect against infection and severe illness, there has been much uncertainty about how long the protection lasts, and w...

SARS-CoV-2 hijacks nanotubes between neurons to in…

COVID-19 often leads to neurological symptoms, such as a loss of taste or smell, or cognitive impairments (including memory loss and concentration difficulties), both dur...

Anti-inflammatory compound shows potential in trea…

An anti-inflammatory compound may have the potential to treat systemic inflammation and brain injury in patients with severe COVID-19 and significantly reduce their chanc...

Pfizer and BioNTech advance COVID-19 vaccine strat…

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) and BioNTech SE (Nasdaq: BNTX) today announced that the companies have initiated a randomized, active-controlled, observer-blind, Phase 2 study to...

Vaccine-induced immune response to omicron wanes s…

Although COVID-19 booster vaccinations in adults elicit high levels of neutralizing antibodies against the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, antibody levels decrease substan...

Scientists develop new biomimetic formulation for …

Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is an aggressive brain cancer with a poor prognosis and few treatment options. New and effective approaches for GBM treatment are therefore ...

New needle-free nasal vaccine shows promise for CO…

New research shows that a needle-free mucosal bacteriophage (phage) T4-based COVID-19 vaccine is effective against SARS-CoV-2 infection. The findings were published in mB...