anthrax genome decoded

Researchers have sequenced the genome of the bacterium that causes anthrax, reports the May 1 Nature. Anthrax is found naturally in farm animals and other mammals, and gained notoriety when it was maliciously used to kill people through the US mail in 2001. The sequencing will help provide targets for vaccine and drug development. The researchers discovered that just a few genes make the difference between deadly anthrax and the bacterium’s close, relatively harmless relatives, bacillus cereus and bacillus thurigiensis. They also found that bacillus anthracis contained an excess of genes for digesting protein, suggesting that its ancestors preyed on the bodies of insects and other animals. Bacillus anthracis contains more than 5,000 genes, with many different functions, suggesting that it can survive in many different environments. Anthrax bacteria ”are constantly ready and exquisitely able to adapt to and exploit any environmental or pathogenic niche that presents itself,” said Julian Parkhill of the Sanger Institute, Cambridge, UK, and Colin Berry of Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK, in an accompanying article.

This news brief appeared in the Random Data column of the Boston Globe’s Health/Science section on 5/06/2003.
This entry was posted in boston globe, news briefs. Bookmark the permalink.