FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2016

NIH scientists use genome sequencing to reveal origin of superbug

The National Institutes of Health announced on Monday that scientists used genome sequencing to track the evolution of Klebsiella pneumoniae sequence type 258, an antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which may result in new methods to treat and prevent spreading infection.


The bacteria is a major cause of human infections called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, which kills approximately 600 people in the United States every year. The majority of CRE infections are contracted in hospitals and long-term care facilities by patients who are already weak from sickness and medical procedures.


Researchers at the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases studied the bacteria collected from two patients in New Jersey. The two sequenced samples were compared to 83 clinical ST258 K. pneumoniae samples.


Researchers previously thought ST258 K. pneumoniae evolved from a single ancestor, but genome sequencing revealed it is the result of two different lineages. They discovered that differences in the two lines of bacteria involved production of the outer coat, which is the primary region that interacts with the bacteria's host. Researchers plan to continue studying the bacteria's genetic differences and how they affect its ability to evade the human immune system.


NIH said the study is an example of the amount of information that can be obtained from genome sequencing. It also demonstrates the importance of using sequencing to study and accurately track bacterial spread.


NIH collaborated with the Public Health Research Institute and New Jersey Medical School-Rutger University, in addition to researchers from Case Western Reserve University, the Houston Methodist Research Institute and Hospital System and NIAID's Rocky Mountain Laboratories.

The study results were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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