High resolution genotyping of Bacillus anthracis outbreak strains using four highly mutable single nucleotide repeat markers

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AimsBacillus anthracis is a genetically monomorphic bacterium with little diversity to be expected during an outbreak. This study used more rapidly evolving genetic markers on outbreak samples to ascertain genetic diversity.Methods and ResultsForty-seven isolates from a B. anthracis outbreak during the summer of 2005 in South Dakota were analysed using single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) and multi-locus VNTR analysis (MLVA). Results indicated that all of the outbreak strains belonged to a single clonal lineage. However, analysis of four single nucleotide repeat (SNR) markers resolved these isolates into six distinct genotypes providing insights into disease transmission.ConclusionsStrain determination of unknown B. anthracis samples can be ascertained by SNP and MLVA markers. However, comparison of many samples obtained during an outbreak will require markers with higher rates of mutation to ascertain genetic diversity.Significance and Impact of the StudySNR4 analysis allowed discrimination of closely related B. anthracis isolates and epidemiological tracking of the outbreak. When used in conjunction with other genotyping schemes that allow broad genetic relationships to be determined, SNR markers are powerful tools for detailed tracking of natural B. anthracis outbreaks and could also prove useful in forensic investigations.

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