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Genomes of cholera bacteria from Haiti confirm epidemic originated from single source
Date:7/1/2013

October 2010, but because of the nature of PFGE, the significance of those changes was not known. Were the changes meaningful? Were the bacteria gaining or losing genes that could impact the course of disease? Did they gain genes from other bacteria in the environment? Are their genomes rearranged? The answers could make a difference in the severity of future outbreaks.

The authors of the study in mBio set out to study in greater detail how V. cholerae may have evolved since its introduction to the island nation, and whether it has acquired genes that bestow new abilities. They sequenced the genomes of 23 different V. cholerae isolates from Haiti that represent multiple PFGE "fingerprint" patterns and were taken from a variety of locations and at various time points during the epidemic.

When compared with the genome sequences of V. cholerae strains from around the world, the Haiti isolates and three Nepal isolates are tightly related, forming a monophyletic group to which no other genome sequences belong.

This result indicates that "Nepalese isolates are the closest relatives to the Haiti strain identified to date, even when placed into a phylogeny with a larger collection of isolates representing recent cholera epidemics," write the authors. This means that the outbreak originated from a single introduction of bacteria, and PFGE variants arose from gradual evolution of the organisms, not from any secondary introduction.

The Haiti strains also have a limited ability to acquire new genes through the process of transformation, by which genetic material is picked up from other bacteria or from the environment. There is some evidence that transformation is an important mechanism for bacteria to acquire the necessary abilities to adapt to a particular environment, so the fact that the Haiti strains are deficient in this respect raises the question of whether they will be able to adapt to life in Haiti or
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Contact: Jim Sliwa
jsliwa@asmusa.org
202-942-9297
American Society for Microbiology
Source:Eurekalert

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