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Researchers improve detection of diverse anthrax strains

Flagstaff, Ariz., and Rockville, MD, August 30, 2004-Scientists have capitalized on genomic data to define novel diagnostic tests and to gain insight into the evolutionary and genetic history of the deadly pathogen Bacillus anthracis (anthrax).

Researchers at Northern Arizona University (NAU), the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) used nearly 1000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to define the genetic and evolutionary types of several anthrax isolates with extremely high resolution.

The results are scheduled for publication online this week by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"This level of detail is not possible without whole genome sequences from multiple strains," said the paper's senior author Dr. Paul Keim, Director of Pathogen Genomics at TGen and the Cowden Endowed Chair of Microbiology at NAU. "This work now provides the raw material for highly specific and sensitive tests for anthrax in human cases, animal cases and within the environment. Specific and sensitive tests for this pathogen are needed for effective bio-defense and forensic investigation into previous events."

TIGR's scientists sequenced the genomes of five isolates, or strains, of anthrax and then compared the results of each sequence to detect minute variations (SNPs). TGen and NAU researchers used that data to develop a typing, or identification, system for various anthrax strains.

"This is the first time that a new bacterial typing system has been developed from an analysis of multiple sequenced genomes of the same species," said Dr. Jacques Ravel, who led the sequencing effort at TIGR. "Comparing the sequence of entire microbial genomes is helping scientists unravel the complex evolutionary history of this lethal agent."

The SNPs described in this work were highly stable. Only one SNP was not entirely stable across the entire study, which m
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Contact: Galen Perry
gperry@tgen.org
602-343-8423
The Translational Genomics Research Institute
30-Aug-2004


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