An outbreak of E. coli infection was detected in Germany about two weeks ago. Health authorities say that over 1500 people have become infected and 17 have died so far. Cases of E. coli infection have been reported in several other European countries, including the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, France, Norway, Spain and Switzerland.
Analysis results carried out by scientists at BGI (Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention), the Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology, the Academy of Military Medical Sciences and the University Medical Centre, Hamburg, reveal that this infection is caused by a completely new E. coli strain.
The scientists report that they have just obtained the genome sequence of this new E. coli strain. Their findings show that it carries several genes making it resistant to antibiotic treatments - it is multi-resistant and hard to treat.
The University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf is treating a considerable number of infected patients from northern Germany. BGI informs that it is liaising and cooperating closely with their European colleagues. The BGI effort is being coordinated by Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Liang Yang from the Department of Systems Biology at the Technical University of Denmark.
Dr. Yang's research focuses on bacterial pathogenesis, biofilm physiology, interspecies interactions, and microbial evolution.
Dr. Liang Yang said:
"It is an exciting task to coordinate the research which hopefully will help to solve this epidemic. We chose to contact BGI regarding this project because BGI has a very good reputation in China and they did a great job in sequencing and analyzing the SARS virus in only a few days during the SARS epidemic in Asia."
BGI scientists say they are using bioinformatics analysis as well as genome sequencing "to reveal the mechanisms of pathogenesis from the whole genomic level and this will help researchers to control the spread of the epidemic."
After three days, using BGI's third-generation sequencing platform, Ion Torrent finalized and released the new E. coli genome sequence. Preliminary analysis shows it is a particularly virulent invasive, toxic strain of E. coli, with intestinal bleeding characteristics.
Dr. Liang wrote:
"(According to the study) .. this outbreak EHEC isolate is a serotype O104 E. coli strain and has 93% sequence similarity with the sequenced EAEC 55989 E. coli strain, which was isolated in the Central African Republic."
This E. coli serotype has never before caused an outbreak or epidemic, Liang added.
According to the genome sequence analysis, this strain might cause hemorrhagic colitis and hemolytic-uremic syndrome in patients. The EHEC isolate has acquired pathogenicity islands from other bacteria through horizontal gene transfer.
The EHEC isolate carries resistance genes towards aminoglycosides, macrolides and Beta-lactam antibiotics, thus seriously undermining the efficacy of antibiotic treatment. The scientists say they will analyze the integrity of virulence genes further, as well as their expression profiling, drug resistance and virulence gene transfer mechanisms.
Source: Source: Dr. Liang Yang, BGI
BGI, which used to be called the Beijiing Genomics Institute, is the largest genomic organization worldwide. It was founded in 1999.
Written by Christian Nordqvist