How Burkholderia pseudomallei Causes Melioidosis
Hinxton - British researchers of The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute have elucidated why the bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei causes a disease (melioidosis) which symptoms mimic so much other diseases. Julian Parkhill and his team found that the two chromosomes of B. pseudomallei carry highly segregated genes. Whilst one covers most of the genes that are essential for cell growth, general metabolism and the survival of the organism, the other contains a lot of acquired genes that promote adaptation and survival in different environments. The team says 16 genetic islands represen-ting 6% of the genome are behind this variability. The islands may have origin-ally been acquired from viruses, trans-posons, and other genetic jumpers. They encode proteins that make it easy to exchange genetic material and cause human disease. B. pseudomallei variants can quickly and easily shuffle and exchange these traits, which may be the major factor in the bacteria's ability to survive in soil and cause multifaceted disease in humans. The bug's genetic plasticity makes melioidoisis difficult to treat clinically and to prevent with a vaccine, the team says.