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Frequent traveller: Dysentery-causing bacteria spreading from Europe to Australia

Researchers have found that a strain of dysentery-causing bacterium that originated from Europe centuries ago is spreading rapidly to Australia and some developing countries

First author, Dr Kathryn Holt from the University of Melbourne said that the bacterium strain Shingella. sonnei is easily transmitted due to the high levels of drug resistance in developed countries.

"Contrary to standard guidelines, drug treatment and better sanitation alone will not be sufficient for controlling this strain. Vaccine development will be crucial." she said

Dr Holt has pioneered the use of next-generation sequencing to study the bacterium that causes dysentery in humans and kills more than one million people, mostly young children.

"Although this strain is a relatively new species of bacterium, during its spread it has diversified into an array of different clones or strains found right across the world. This is hard to see using traditional methods, but by sequencing the DNA sequences of over 100 different forms of the bacteria, we were able to get a glimpse into its past and really start to understand how it is evolving and moving around the world." she said.

The research emphasises the importance of developing a vaccine against the strain. "The combination of increased incidence and antibiotic resistance means that a vaccine will be increasingly important for the long-term control and prevention of dysentery," she said.

Dr Holt has previously completed studies on typhoid fever and was able to comment on the E. coli bacteria at the root of a massive outbreak in Germany, which struck thousands of people.

Contact: Annie Rahilly
University of Melbourne

Page: 1

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