Crop Biotech Update

Researchers Identify Genetic Makeup of Dangerous E. coli Strains

February 10, 2016

A multi-disciplinary group of researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) led by Drs. David Rasko and Michael Donnenberg have determined the genetic makeup of various strains of E. coli that are much more lethal than others. The team, including researchers in The Gambia, Mali, Kenya, Mozambique, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, studied the genomes of 70 strains of E. coli from infected children enrolled in the Global Enterics Multi-Center Study (GEMS). Some of the cases were associated with death, others had symptoms but no death, and others were not associated with symptoms.

They analyzed the genetic differences between the strains and mapped them onto disease outcome. Then, they divided the strains into categories, based on genetic content and clinical outcome. They are not sure how the genetic variations may be linked to symptoms and outcomes, but the pattern provides a rich area for further research, Rasko said. He suspects that increased E. coli lethality is caused by a group of genes interacting rather than one or two genes.

"This work by Dr. Rasko and his colleagues is on the cutting edge of how scientists can use data and genomics to get at difficult public health questions," says UM SOM Dean E. Albert Reece.

For more details, read the news release at the UM SOM website.