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Scientists sequence 10 variants of deadly E. coli strain through 'crowd-sourcing'.

Washington, Sept 5 (ANI): Scientists have sequenced 10 variants of the deadly Escherichia coli strain that hit Germany in May 2011 through crowd-sourcing - a development that could give insight into how the outbreak arose.

Crowd-sourcing is the act of outsourcing tasks to an undefined, large group of people or community (a 'crowd'), through an open call.

Sequencing of the bacterium started in early June at BGI, China. Their sequence was provided in draft form to the scientific community as a crowd-sourcing project.

This allowed scientists, including those at The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) in Norwich to identify key disease-causing genes.

"We have found that the E. coli strain responsible for the outbreak carries a very high number of genes known to be involved in disease. These include genes that influence the bacterium's ability to attach to surfaces and survival genes that increase tolerance to high acidity, low oxygen, UV light and antibiotics," said Dr Lisa Crossman, Microbial Genome Project Leader at TGAC.

The outbreak of E. coli O104:H4 resulted in a large number of cases of bloody diarrhoea and haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) in Germany, and in 15 other countries in Europe and North America.

The earliest studies suggested contaminated cucumbers were to blame.

However by 10 June, raw beansprouts were identified as the source of infection.

Crowd-sourcing researchers found that the outbreak strain is most closely related to a strain of E. coli originally isolated in Central Africa some years ago, which was responsible for cases of serious diarrhoea.

"The E. coli O104:H4 outbreak strain has gained the ability to make a toxin from a bacterial virus source which has made it more dangerous," said Dr Crossman.

The unprecedented global crowd-sourcing effort meant that in the very immediate term, doctors were able to distinguish this strain from others, said Dr Crossman.

"Knowing which antibiotic resistance genes are carried by the strain, for example, can provide us with more insight into the source of the outbreak and help us avoid similar outbreaks occurring in the future," she said.

The findings were presented at the Society for General Microbiology's Autumn Conference 2011 (ANI)

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Publication:Asian News International
Date:Sep 5, 2011
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