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Genomic Analyses Offer Clues to Emergence of Virulent Bacteria

The recent outbreak of E. coli infections that began in Germany sickened more than 4,000 people in 16 countries and caused an unusually high number of cases of hemolytic-uremic syndrome, a life-threatening complication that destroys red blood cells and damages the kidney. An international team of researchers seeking to understand the genetic makeup of the bacteria responsible for the outbreak has compared its genome to the genomes of 11 related strains of E. coli from around the world. Their analyses show that the deadly strain likely emerged when a less pathogenic E. coli picked up a critical set of virulence genes that made it more lethal in humans.

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