Genome analysis shows bacterial evolution

July 27, 2004 at 2:44 PM

BETHESDA, Md., July 27 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers have used genome-wide analysis to understand at the molecular level epidemics of a bacteria that causes strep throat and toxic shock syndrome.

Researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institute of Health, used nearly a dozen genomic-testing procedures to discover detail about the molecular characteristics and virulence of group A streptococcus, also known as flesh-eating bacteria.

Previous studies underestimated genetic diversity in bacteria based on limited molecular techniques and smaller patient sample sizes, researchers said. They identified previously unknown genetic shifting and evolution in the unusually virulent M3 strains of group a streptococcus, or GAS, revealing why only some strains rapidly expand to cause epidemics.

"This work indicates that using extensive genome-wide molecular analyses is an important new strategy for understanding how and why pathogens emerge," said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci. "What's more, the method can be applied to other bacterial and viral pathogens by adjusting the techniques and strategies."

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