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Proteus mirabilis will give up its genetic secrets at ASM meeting

ORLANDO, Fla. Scientists now have inside information to use in the fight against Proteus mirabilis a nasty bacterium that can cause kidney stones, as well as hard-to-treat urinary tract infections.

Data from the first complete genome sequence for P. mirabilis, which includes at least 3,693 genes and 4.063 megabases of DNA, will be presented at the 106th general meeting of the American Society of Microbiology taking place in Orlando from May 21-25.

Melanie M. Pearson, Ph.D., a research fellow in microbiology and immunology at the University of Michigan Medical School, is the first scientist to perform an in-depth analysis of the genome sequence. She will present her initial findings in an ASM poster presentation beginning at 9 a.m. on May 23.

"Access to the full genome sequence will help scientists determine the virulence factors produced by the organism and learn how it causes disease," Pearson says. "Part of our goal is finding potential targets for new vaccines that could protect people from infection."

"E. coli causes urinary tract infections in otherwise healthy individuals, but P. mirabilis causes more infections in those with 'complicated' urinary tracts. In cases where stones form, the bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics," says Harry L.T. Mobley, Ph.D., professor and chair of microbiology and immunology in the U-M Medical School. "It is particularly prevalent in nursing home residents with indwelling catheters."

Mobley is an expert on urease, an enzyme produced by P. mirabilis, which breaks down urea in the urinary tract, reduces the acidity of urine and leads to the formation of kidney or bladder stones. Once a stone begins to form, bacteria stick to the stone and live within its layers, where they are protected from antibiotics.

When Pearson examined the genomic sequence data for Proteus mirabilis, she discovered an explanation for the bacterium's "stickiness."

"This bacterium has an unus
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Contact: Sally Pobojewski
pobo@umich.edu
734-615-6912
University of Michigan Health System
23-May-2006


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