Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Scientists decipher genetic code of biothreat pathogen


Highly regulated virulence genes and genomic instability found in the horse pathogen, burkholderia mallei

More than 2,400 years after Hippocrates first described the symptoms of glanders, scientists have deciphered the genetic code of the ancient pathogen that causes the horse disease: Burkholderia mallei.

The study found that B. mallei, a highly evolved pathogen that has been deployed in the past as a biological weapon, has an extremely regulated set of virulence genes and an unstable genome that may explain the bacterium’s ability to thwart the immune responses of its host animals – mainly horses, mules and donkeys. "The combination of virulence genes and genomic instability may explain why some scientists consider this to be the ultimate bacterial pathogen," says William Nierman, the first author of the study, which is being published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

As part of the study, scientists used DNA microarrays to better understand the functions of B. mallei virulence genes. Nierman, an investigator at The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR), said the new study, along with a report on the related bacterium B. pseudomallei published in the same issue of PNAS, "has dramatically increased our understanding of the biology and pathogenicity of these very sophisticated pathogens."

Even though the symptoms of glanders have been known since the description by Hippocrates in 425 B.C., scientists have yet to develop a vaccine that is effective against this highly infectious equine disease. When humans are infected, treatment requires a long-term regimen of multiple antibiotics. A test developed by German scientists after B. mallei was isolated in 1882 greatly improved the early detection of the disease in horses. Glanders was eradicated in the United States by the 1930s.

Cultures of B. mallei were used as biological weapons during the U.S. Civil War, World War I and World War II. In addition, there have been reports that the Soviet Union weaponized the pathogen and possibly used it during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

TIGR collaborated on the B. mallei study with a research team led by David DeShazer, a glanders expert with the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Frederick, MD. The parallel study of B. pseudomallei, which causes the disease melioidosis in humans, was conducted by a team led by scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the United Kingdom.

The B. mallei study was funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is part of the National Institutes of Health. Following up the genome analysis, TIGR is now examining several other strains and isolates of B. mallei and B. pseudomallei under an NIAID microbial sequencing contract. "Using the tools of comparative genomics, scientists will be able to deepen the understanding of the molecular reasons why these related pathogens have such different impacts, in terms of their target hosts and their pathogenicity," says TIGR President Claire Fraser, the study’s senior author.

Robert Koenig | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Here comes the long-sought-after iron-munching microbe
25.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für marine Mikrobiologie

nachricht Novel method to benchmark and improve the performance of protein measumeasurement techniques
25.10.2016 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

First-time reconstruction of infectious bat influenza viruses

25.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Novel method to benchmark and improve the performance of protein measumeasurement techniques

25.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Amazon rain helps make more rain

25.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>