Scientists find new markers for anthrax isolates

arch, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the Department of Energy and the United Kingdoms Defense Sciences Technology Laboratory.

TIGRs main anthrax researcher, Timothy Read, said this week that his group plans to sequence at least 14 other strains and isolates of B. anthracis over the next year or so in conjunction with the University of Northern Arizona laboratory led by microbiologist Paul Keim that has a library of about 1,200 anthrax isolates. That new anthrax sequencing project is funded by the NIAID.

To lay the groundwork for future investigations, genome-based surveys of natural variation in all major pathogens, not just potential biological warfare agents, should be undertaken, the scientists write in their paper. Building a comprehensive database of information related to gene content, variant SNPs, indels and inversions in the genomes of important pathogens will allow investigators to quickly pinpoint the isolate that is most closely related to an outbreak strain. Such a database would greatly accelerate investigations and may deter future attacks.

Analyzing the Isolate

In the Science Express paper, TIGR scientists led by Fraser, Read, and TIGRs chief of bioinformatics, Steven Salzberg -- report that the comprehensive comparison of the Porton and Florida anthrax isolates identified slight differences in their DNA that could be used as genomic fingerprints in future analyses.

Those differences include what the scientists describe as four high-quality single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) differences of a single DNA base between the sequenced chromosomes of the Porton and Florida isolates. In all, the comparison revealed 60 new genomic markers which could be useful in distinguishing among various anthrax isolates. Most of those differences were found in the plasmids circular units of DNA that are separate from the chromosomes that contain most of the organisms genetic materia

Contact: Robert Koenig
The Institute for Genomic Research

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