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GlaxoSmithKline Researchers Sequence the Genome of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacterium

NEW YORK, June 18 - GlaxoSmithKline scientists have sequenced the genome of an antibiotic-resistant type of Streptococcus pneumoniae , the journal Microbial Drug Resistance: Mechanisms, Epidemiology, and Disease announced Monday.

The paper in the quarterly journal's current issue describes how S. pneumoniae  might have acquired its ability to resist the effects of erthromycin and tetracycline, two common antibiotics, as well as how the bacterium accesses genetic information from other species of bacteria.

The authors, led by GlaxoSmithKline researcher Joaquin Dopazo, found that the S. pneumoniae had most likely participated in a previous gene transfer that had allowed the bacterium to modify its outer shell. The alteration disguises the bacterium from the immune system, requiring the body to produce a new antibody against the potentially harmful organism. The team led by Dopazo also found over 47 whole or fragmented transposases, genetic elements that allow the bacterium to reshuffle the DNA within a chromosome. 

S. pneumoniae  can lead to several potentially deadly illnesses, especially in young children, the elderly, and in patients with compromised immune systems. The World Health Organization estimated that 3.5 million people worldwide died from S. pneumoniae -related diseases in 1998.  
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