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Ticks, flukes, and genomics: Emerging pathogens revealed

a infect such diverse animals. One of the three primary bacteria sequenced, A. phagocytophilum, contains roughly 1,400 genes--including more than 100 variations of a single gene that codes for a protein allowing the bacteria to evade the immune system of the organism it has infected. This protein sits on the bacteria's outer membrane surface. When the bacteria, through tick bites, transfers to a human, say, or horse, the bacteria chooses the protein variation needed to stay hidden from that particular host.

"These genome sequences have revolutionized the types of experiments [scientists] can perform to understand these diseases," says microbiologist Yasuko Rikihisa of OSU's College of Veterinary Medicine. "Already, at least four labs are performing, or planning to perform, whole genome DNA microarray analysis and proteomic analysis of these bacteria."

In addition to comparing genomes, the current study used those genomes to reconstruct the metabolic potential (the ability to use and produce energy and compounds) of five bacteria, representing the numerous organisms compared. With this final analysis, they gleaned new insight into the broader tactics used by different bacteria. Ehrlichiosis pathogens, for instance, appear capable of making vitamins that a host tick lacks in its regular diet.

"This study is a beautiful example of how in-depth comparative genomics can lead to the identification of molecular features that underlie the lifestyle of pathogens," says TIGR molecular biologist Hervé Tettelin, senior author of the PLoS Genetics article. "We could not have reached these conclusions by independently studying the genome sequence of each individual pathogen," he adds. "Now we know how some of the pathogens studied infect or provide benefits to their hosts."

The scientists hope to build on this work, with potential studies to determine which bacterial genes are turned on during ehrlichiosis infection and to track the evolut
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Source:The Institute for Genomic Research


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