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Genetic changes tracked as bacteria become a fatal infection

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An unusual case could tell researchers more about the genetic changes that occur when a common bacteria, normally carried without any problems, on rare occasions causes potentially life-threatening infections.

Eight mutations occurred in the common bacteria Staphylococcus aureus as it turned from an innocuous resident inside one person’s nose into a fatal blood infection, an Oxford University study has found.

The study, which sequenced the complete DNA of the bacteria at regular time intervals, was able to identify for the first time the genetic changes that accompanied the transition to a dangerous infection.

Understanding the biological causes of serious bacterial infections could help guide screening in hospitals, and could inform efforts to develop vaccines against such infections. The study is published in the journal PNAS and was carried out in partnership with Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust through the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Oxford Biomedical Research Centre.

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