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Anthrax Genome Said Decoded

NEW YORK, April 30 -- A team of researchers has sequenced the genome of Bacillus anthracis, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said today.


The complete sequence of the 5.2 million base pairs of the DNA in B. anthracis single chromosome is to be published in the May 1 issue of Nature.


Researchers at TIGR, in collaboration with NIAID, did the sequencing, and also compared the the Ames strain of B. anthracis, isolated from a Texas cow in 1981, with Bacillus cereus and Bacillus thuringiensis, common bacteria, and found only 150 "significant" differences among 5,000 or more genes compared, TIGR's Timothy Read, an assistant investigator in the microbial genomics group, said in a statement.


In May 2002, scientists from TIGR and NorthernArizonaUniversity found new genetic markers that distinguish the anthrax used in the Fall 2001 postal attack in Florida from closely related strains.


The research confirmed that the Bacillus anthracis isolated from a terror attack in Florida was different from closely related anthrax strains, the scientists reported. Researchers, using a comparison of the whole-genome sequence of the Florida sample with other strains, also confirmed that the anthrax discovered in Florida was derived from the Ames strain.


The scientists found 60 new genomic markers that include four "high quality" SNPs that were found to divide a collection of anthrax isolates into distinct families, according to the paper's authors.


According to Claire Fraser, president of TIGR, which has sequenced more than 100 pathogens, sequencing work is emerging as a crucial step in the process of developing new vaccines, diagnostics and treatments against the infectious diseases most likely to be weaponized and also supply new forensic tools and new ways to understand the epidemiology of disease.