Wounded soldiers returning from Iraq in the fall of 2006 were found to be carrying a “superbug” responsible for highly drug-resistant infections that spread rapidly in hospitals. The culprit is A. baumannii, a bacterium that causes pneumonia, meningitis, septicemia and urinary tract infections. Using a new and rapid method called high-density pyrosequencing, Yale researchers sequenced the bacterium’s genome to learn how it functions, according to a report in the March 1 issue of Genes and Development. Analysis revealed that 17.2 percent of the bacterium’s DNA that codes for protein is located in 28 so-called alien islands, sequences that originated in other micro-organisms.
“Drug-resistant bacterial infections are a rapidly growing problem in hospital settings, and now in difficult conditions of combat,” said principal investigator Michael Snyder, Ph.D., the Lewis B. Cullman Professor of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. “Having the genome sequence of this microbe is critical for understanding how it harms humans.”