Rapid sequencing of the deadly E.coli

14 June 2011

BGI-Shenzhen and the University Medical Centre, Hamburg have released a preliminary genome sequence of the deadly E.coli strain linked to the recent outbreak in Germany.
The bacterial genome was sequenced using the latest ion semiconductor sequencing technology, and sequences from related E.coli strains were used as references. Though incomplete, the data has been made available to the scientific community because of its public health importance.
The results show that the outbreak strain genome is a mosaic (mix) of genes from a number of known strains, with the serotype 0104. A strain of this serotype was previously involved in an outbreak in US, but the two strains are not genetically identical. Eight antibiotic-resistance genes have been identified in the new strain, but as yet no virulence genes that could explain the unusually severe effects of infection have been revealed so far.
Comment: The rapid availability of genetic data on the deadly E.coli strain is an excellent example of direct application of new sequencing technologies to human health. The speedy release and dissemination of the sequencing data, helped by social media such as Twitter, has allowed scientists around the globe to compare genome sequences from different bacterial strains and isolates.