The threat of bioterrorism has renewed interest in techniques for pathogen detection, monitoring and analysis. In the May 8 ScienceXpress, Timothy Read and researchers at The Institute for Genome Research (TIGR) Maryland, USA, describe a genome-based analysis of Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax (DOI:10.1126/science.1071837).

Read et al. assembled sequences from a recent isolate of B. anthracis used in a series of fatal letter-based attacks in Florida that followed in the wake of the World Trade Center tragedy on September 11, and compared them with a reference strain (referred to as the Porton isolate). They discovered four sequence differences in the B. anthracis chromosome: two single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and two short insertions/deletions. Comparison of the pXO virulence plasmids with those from the Sterne and Pasteur strains revealed a further 38 SNPs, eight VNTRs and three large insertion/deletions.

Some of these polymorphisms may have potential...

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