The complete genetic blueprint of Bacillus anthracis — the microbe that gained notoriety during the 2001 anthrax mail attacks — is now known, researchers announced today. A formidable bioterrorist threat and the cause of potentially fatal inhalational anthrax, B. anthracis differs very little from the common soil bacterium that is its near relative, the scientists discovered. Those genetic differences are enough to give B. anthracis its disease-causing properties and may also give scientists valuable clues to its vulnerabilities.
The team of researchers supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and other federal agencies was led by Claire M. Fraser, Ph.D., and Timothy Read, Ph.D., at The Institute of Genomic Research in Rockville, MD. The complete sequence of the 5.2 million base pairs of the DNA in B. anthracis' single chromosome is published in the May 1 issue of Nature.
Anne A. Oplinger
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