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Research Shows How Bacteria Keep Ahead Of Vaccines And Antibiotics

Posted Jan 28 2011 6:33pm

Global phylogeny of PMEN1. The maximum likelihood tree, constructed using substitutions outside of recombination events, is coloured according to location, as reconstructed through the phylogeny using parsimony. Shaded boxes and dashed lines indicate isolates that have switched capsule type from the ancestral 23F serotype. Specific clades referred to in the text are marked on the tree: ‘A’ (South Africa), ‘I’ (International), ‘V’ (Vietnam), ‘S’ (Spain 19A) and ‘U’ (USA 19A).

New research provides the first detailed genetic picture of an evolutionary war between Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria and the vaccines and antibiotics used against it over recent decades. Large-scale genome sequencing reveals patterns of adaptation and the spread of a drug-resistant lineage of the S. pneumoniae bacteria.
The study unmasks the genetic events by which bacteria such as S. pneumoniae respond rapidly to new antibiotics and vaccines. The team suggest that knowing the enemy better could improve infection control measures.
S. pneumoniae is responsible for a broad range of human diseases, including pneumonia, ear infection and bacterial meningitis. Since the 1970s, some forms of the bacteria have gained resistance to many of the antibiotics traditionally used to treat the disease. In 2000 S. pneumoniae was responsible for 15 million cases of invasive disease across the globe. A new vaccine was introduced to the US in 2000 in an attempt to control disease resulting from the most common and drug resistant forms of the bacteria.

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