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Been Around for Years

A collection of bacteria that began about a hundred years ago is enabling researchers to study their evolution and develop treatments, according to the New York Times.

The collection, the UK's National Collection of Type Cultures, includes about 6,000 bacterial strains from 900 species, it adds, noting that about half the strains in the collection have been sequenced. The first sample in the collection, which is now overseen by Public Health England, is a dysentery-causing Shigella flexneri bacterium that was isolated in 1915 from a soldier, the Times writes. It notes the sample was sequenced and compared to other strains isolated in 1954, 1984, and 2002 to find only 2 percent of the bacterial genome had changed in the intervening years. Those changes, though, were linked to increased virulence, immune evasion, as well as antimicrobial resistance, it adds.

"It gives us this snapshot of an era for which we don't have much information but that is critical for understanding how we've got to the antimicrobial crisis that we're in today," the University of Liverpool's Kate Baker tells the Times.

The collection, the paper notes, continues to add samples and stays afloat by charging between $85 and $375 for strains.